Proposed changes by US for specialty occupation under H-1B visas to add costs for IT cos: Nasscom
New Delhi: IT industry body Nasscom Friday warned that proposed changes by the US administration around definition of specialty occupations under the H-1B visas will add costs for global IT services companies that play a critical role in helping American companies stay competitive in the global market.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said on Wednesday that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to come out with its new proposal by January 2019. Such a move which could have an adverse impact on Indian IT companies in the US and small and medium-sized contractual firms mostly owned by Indian-Americans.
Nasscom, in a statement, said it will be "both appropriate and fully possible to comment on the likely changes in the H-1B adjudication and their potential impact" only after the specifics and finer details of the proposed changes are known in the near future.
"Narrowing the definition of a 'specialty occupation,' the definition of the 'employer-employee relationship,' and adding additional requirements to regulate wages, will only add costs to a system that is working well for global IT services companies. These companies play a critical role helping the US economy meet its digital technology needs in a highly competitive, and increasingly tech-driven global economy," it added.
This has helped make corporate America more competitive, enabling them to grow and create more jobs in return, Nasscom said pointing out that these companies themselves are making billions of dollars worth of investments, hiring more than 1,50,000 employees and spending millions of dollars on upskilling locally.
"Nasscom will continue to highlight the same to the US Administration directly and in partnership with allies to convey our views on the importance of the high-skill visa programmes, that play a critical role in bridging skills gap, something that is acknowledged by a number of US sources," the statement said.
The H-1B visa, most sought-after among Indian IT professionals, is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.
The USCIS plans to revise the definition of specialty occupation to increase focus on obtaining the best and the brightest foreign nationals via the H-1B programme. It will also "revise the definition" of employment and employer-employee relationship to "better protect" US workers and wages, the DHS had said.
In addition, the DHS will propose additional requirements designed to ensure employers pay appropriate wages to H-1B visa holders, the administration had said.
The DHS had reiterated that it was proposing to remove from its regulations certain H-4 spouses of H-1B non-immigrants as a class of aliens eligible for employment authorisation. The H-4 visas are issued by the USCIS to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the holders of H-1B visa.
The H1-B visa has an annual numerical limit cap of 65,000 visas each fiscal year as mandated by the Congress. The first 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of beneficiaries with a US master's degree or higher are exempt from the cap. As an H-1B non-immigrant, the applicant may be admitted for a period of up to three years. The time period may be extended, but generally cannot go beyond a total of six years.
The Trump administration is reviewing the H-1B visa policy that it thinks is being misused by companies to replace American workers.