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IT companies may get H-1B boost under Biden

Joe Biden
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Joe Biden

Highlights

H-1B visa programme remains a critical factor for driving growth of the Indian IT industry which is valued at over $175 billion

H-1B visa programme remains a critical factor for driving growth of the Indian IT industry which is valued at over $175 billion. This programme also plays a significant role in driving innovations in US-based multinational giants such as Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon, among others. Ironically, the American government under the Trump administration created a lot of administrative roadblocks in the last 18-24 months, making it increasingly difficult for Indian IT professionals to receive these kinds of temporary visas to work in the US.

In addition to the undue delay in the processing of visa applications, the Trump government also increased visa fees. To check the unemployment rates in the North American nation, Trump banned the entry of foreign workers under H-1B and L-1 visas till December this year. The US administration is now proposing to fix minimum wages for the foreign workers, which if implemented, will force Indian IT firms to cough up higher pay packages for their employees. Though drastic legislative changes such as 'no work visa' for spouses of H-1B visa holders and wage ceiling for non-immigrant workers are yet to be approved, such restrictions on foreign talent began to hurt innovations in the global technology industry. Even the head honchos of global tech giants pointed out that and underlined the need for allowing overseas talent to work in the US tech industry.

Further, the stringent curbs on H1-B visas also started to reflect in numbers. The share of Indian IT professionals availing the H-1B visa programme, which has an annual cap of 65,000, has been reducing over the years.

According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the share of Indian companies among the top-10 visa recipients dropped from 51 per cent to 24 per cent during 2016-19 periods. Even the belief that the Indian IT industry has cornered about a major share of H-1B visas is also wrong. For instance, Amazon received 3,026 initial approvals for the H-1B visa programme last fiscal, while Google got initial approvals for 2,678 visas. During this period, Microsoft received 1,701 applications, while it was 1,518 for Facebook. In comparison to this, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) received 1,733 approvals and Infosys got 757.

Amid these difficulties, the new US President-elect Joe Biden is expected to ease some of these regulations. Being part of the Obama administration earlier, Biden always has a lenient view towards allowing high-skilled overseas individuals to work in the US. His presidential bid also seems to be supportive of his earlier stance. A policy document of his campaign states that an immigration system that crowds out high-skilled workers in favour of only entry-level wages and skills, threatens American innovation.

Though it's too early to gauge the direction of his policy decisions related to the technology sector and immigration, relaxations of some kind are highly expected on the popular H-1B visa programme. The US is traditionally known as a 'melting pot' society, which has emerged as a superpower by promoting immigration, and Biden is expected to follow this tradition. Therefore, better days are ahead for those who are keen on working in the US.

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