Indian and U.S. technology firms advise the Trump administration to reverse an executive order restricting access to certain job visas, saying the change would disrupt a market model used to bring high-skill expertise to Wall Street and Silicon Valley clients.
Last week’s order from Donald Trump inhibits approvals of a range of visas all through to the year-end, including those for intra-company transfers and study-outside programs, and aims to give American preference after recording job losses from the coronavirus pandemic. H-1B visas used by Indian workers and other countries to occupy key roles are vital to the tech industry.
Visa delivery is an complex, month-long undertaking and some interruption could affect vital employees’ ability to fly to consumer locations for an prolonged period of time. The virus lockdowns have now delayed vital consulate access to the network and pushed hundreds of thousands of employees into demanding work-from – home conditions.
India’s technology trade group, Nasscom, called Trump’s order “misguided and harmful to the U.S. economy” and warned it would exacerbate the country’s economic pain.
Indian companies provide technology staff and services to U.S. hospitals, drugmakers and biotechnology companies, Nasscom pointed out. In addition, the industry may send more workers to Canada or Mexico without access to the U.S. market.
“These are highly-skilled workers who are in great demand and they will be mobile no matter what,” said Shivendra Singh, president of global trade development at Nasscom.
Among the other critics of the order were Alphabet Inc. Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai, Microsoft Corp. President Brad Smith and Tesla Inc. founder Elon Musk. Pichai, himself a beneficiary of the H-1B visa system in the 1990s, tweeted, “Immigration has contributed immensely to America’s economic success making it a global leader in tech, and also Google the company it is today.” Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., Infosys Ltd. and Wipro Ltd., among the largest outsourcing companies in Asia, declined to comment.
According to immigration numbers, India accounts for around 70 per cent of the 85,000 H-1B visas granted annually. Of this number, 65,000 visas are given to international professionals with bachelor’s degrees, while the remaining 20,000 will be assigned to employees with more advanced degrees. The visa program was developed to allow businesses to recruit foreign staff to address a lack of highly qualified technical services and product creation expertise. The reality that every year Indian outsourcers receive a large amount of the visas has rendered the scheme problematic, with opponents alleging that businesses misuse the system by replacing American employees with cheaper foreign labour.
Shortly after assuming office, Trump promised to clamp down on work visas and overhaul the “broken” immigration framework. A long-term issue for outsourcers is the proposed redesign of the existing H-1B visa scheme by the government, which will substitute the established allocation mechanism to decide who accepts visas with a merit-based method that prioritizes wage-based applicants.
Now, outsourcing firms are grappling with the unpredictability of the visa situation and the possibility of an H-1B revamp being able to make it impossible to take all but the most important of talent outside the world.