The contentious issue of curbs on H-1B visas has come to the fore yet again. With the Donald Trump-led US government reportedly considering measures to do away with H-1B visa extensions for those who applied for US Green Card, nearly 7.5 lakh Indians, who are working in that country on this visa, and their families will land in a deep trouble.
If that happens, it will be a huge blow not only to their careers, but also to the $160-billion Indian IT sector which heavily depends on them for its cost-effective US operations. This proposal comes close on the heels of the US government’s purported move not to allow spouses of H-1B visa holders, to work – a facility extended by the previous US administration headed by President Barack Obama.
In 2015, Indians accounted for 70.1 per cent of H-1B visas sanctioned by the US and most of them are IT workers. That shows how dominant Indians are in the foreign workforce that the US has. Therefore, any attempt from the US towards tightening the norms for H-1B visas will have widespread ramifications for Indians.
But there is a limit to what extent a country can accommodate foreign workers. The US is a sovereign country and it has every right to frame rules on its visas. As a country, it has a responsibility to provide jobs to its own citizens. So, it can't afford to accommodate foreigners at the cost of locals. The victory of Trump in 2016 elections should be seen from this angle.
Despite being a rookie politician, he trounced an experienced leader like Hillary Clinton because he succeeded in tapping the growing discontentment against foreign workers on the ground. He could secure victory despite a continued onslaught from media giants. That's a clear indication of how popular his slogans like 'Buy American, Hire American' have resonated with the native Americans.
It's high time Indians, the Indian government and India's IT sector should take the restrictions in a positive light. As Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra tweeted on Thursday, India should welcome all those who return from the US with open arms and encourage them to set up their own companies as the country is home to a robust startup ecosystem now.
Our IT sector currently employs close to 40 lakh people. Compare that with the number of Indians working in the US on H1-Bs. It's miniscule. So, the ever-increasing curbs on H-1B visas should not worry anyone as the IT sector here can easily absorb whoever returns from the US. It may disappoint some Indians who dream of earning in dollars and enjoying a better lifestyle in the US which is described by many as the land of opportunities.
But US-returned techies can convert India into a new land of opportunities for them and others. That way, they can have the satisfaction of contributing to their home land. Moreover, India can immensely benefit from their global experience, exposure and expertise. That way, curbs on H-1B visa will indeed be a blessing in disguise for new India!