Proposed H-1B visa bill: 10 things to know


America has a protectionist new president who appears to be energetically following through on his election promise to put “America First”.

The H-1B visa programme allows US employers to import foreign workers with “highly specialised knowledge”. However, the Trump administration can reduce the cap on H-1B visas or raise the fees or auction them, which is a source of anxiety for US tech firms, which outsource jobs mainly to India.

Indian IT sectot sees it as a massive threat for India, which is at the epicentre of the global IT industry and is already struggling with the challenge of jobless growth. It is futile to wishfully hope that “this too shall pass”. The game has irrevocably changed and the government of India and Indian technology companies need to embrace this new reality and act accordingly.

Here's a look at how the H-1B visa program works and why tech companies are worried :

1. The US gives 65,000 H-1B visas each year and an additional 20,000 more for foreign students in US.

2. The US Department of Homeland Security said that 70 per cent of the 65,000 H-1B visas in 2014 went to Indians.

3. About 3 lakh to 3.5 lakh Indian engineers are on H-1B visas in US+ , say industry estimates.

4. In 2016, till August, Indian workers had got 72 per cent of total H-1B visas issued worldwide.

5. During the same period, Indian workers also received 30 per cent of all L1 visas.

6. The big advantages of L1 is that there there is no cap on the number to be issued every year.

7. According to the proposed order, firms would have to try to hire American first. If they recruit foreign workers, priority would be given to the most highly paid.

8. The move, if it goes through, could change the way US tech giants like Microsoft, Amazon and Apple hire talent.

9. It would also force wholesale changes at Indian companies such as Infosys and Wipro.

10. A bill in the US House of Representatives+ calls for the minimum salary for an H-1B visa to be doubled, to around $130,000 per annum from the present $60,000.