iconimg Friday, September 04, 2015

Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times
Washington, April 24, 2013
The new immigration bill being discussed in the US targets Indian firms on behalf of their local competitors who are unable to compete for a fixed pool of foreign workers.

The US politicians have long held that Indian IT firms operating here use H-1B visas to bring cheaper IT workers from India, and then eventually ship those jobs out of the US.

India has argued that these provisions are discriminatory and the bill erroneously treats temporary relocation of skilled workers to provide on-site services as an immigration issues.

It's a trade issue, in short. There is an annual cap on H-1B visas - 65,000, and Indian firms corner almost half of them.

But the mood here is different. Democratic senator Richard Durbin, one of the authors of the bill, on Monday accused TCS, Infosys and Wirpro of misusing H-1B visas to offshore US jobs.

But that, it seems, is not all that matters here. The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that the stringent anti-India proposals in the bill were introduced on behalf of the US tech firms.

Indian IT companies and their lobbyists have long been saying that but the Journal now cites lobbyists for US tech companies, taking credit for those provisions.

"US tech firms successfully lobbied for the draft immigration bill to include caps on the number of foreign workers US-based companies can employ on skilled worker visas," it said.

A US-based company with more than 75% of its employees on such visas will be prohibited from bringing any more. And that cap will be lowered to 65% in 2014 and 50% the year after.

At the same time the bill proposes to almost double the annual cap on H-1B visas from the current 65,000. With Indian firms struggling with their caps, this will benefit US firms.

The US firms have maintained that they get squeezed out by thousands of applications Indian companies file, eventually cornering more than half the H-1B visas granted.

Microsoft's Brad Smith had in a senate hearing said Indian firms are following a faulty business model and that he has been trying to impress upon them the need to change it.

Indian tech firms, their lobbyists are saying, seem to be losing the battle, outgunned by their local competitors, who haven't had to really try hard.