H1B Visa Issue: As India Talks Tough, A Look At Why It Matters

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 16:54 IST

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, currently on a visit to the US, took up with the American administration the matter of restrictions on H-1B visas.

H1B Visa Issue: As India Talks Tough, A Look At Why It Matters
India has presented a concept note at the WTO for a TFS Agreement (Representational Image)

India has toughened its stand over US President Donald Trump ordering tougher conditions for issuance of H-1B visas, the biggest beneficiaries of which are Indians.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, currently on a visit to the US, took up with the American administration the matter of restrictions on H-1B visas.

Jaitley has ‘strongly raised’ the H-1B visa issue with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, highlighting the important role played by highly skilled Indian professionals in America, officials said.

During the meeting - the first cabinet-level interaction between the two countries under the Trump administration - Ross is believed to have said that US has started the process of reviewing H1B visas issues and no decision has been taken on it yet, sources said.

Taking up the case of Indian IT companies and professionals, Jaitley told Ross about the contribution of highly skilled Indians in the economic development of the United States and India and stressed that they should continue to do so, which is in the best interest of the two countries, an Indian official said.

Ross is understood to have said that whatever the outcome of the review process, the Trump administration's objective is to have a merit-based immigration policy that gives preference to highly skilled professionals.

The executive order signed by Trump early this week calls for a review of H-1B visas by the departments of State, Labour, Homeland Security and Justice.

Stressing that India-US relationship has bipartisan support in both the countries, the Finance Minister in his meeting with the commerce secretary said the two largest democratic countries of the world over the years have developed z strong strategic, economic and defence relationship.

India’s tough stand matters a lot because the biggest beneficiaries of H-1B visas are Indians. In 2014, 70 per cent of total H-1B petitions approved were from Indians.

According to a Computerworld analysis of government data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, nearly 86 per cent of the H-1B visas issued for workers in computer occupations go to Indian workers.

Earlier, India presented a concept note at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for a trade facilitation in services (TFS) Agreement, which proposes a way forward on comprehensively addressing the numerous border and behind-the-border barriers on the lines of the historic trade facilitation agreement in goods.

The TFS proposal aims at liberalising rules for movement of professionals, liberalised visa regime and long-term business visas. India is pushing for a TFA in services at the WTO as this sector has huge potential and contributes significantly to the country's economy.