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Visa woes: Singapore blocks visas to Indian IT professionals

While the focus has been on US visa woes for India, Singapore has also taken several steps to block Indian IT professionals from working in the island-nation.

business Updated: Jul 19, 2017 15:41 IST
Singapore has not issued any visas to Indian IT professionals since January 2016.
Singapore has not issued any visas to Indian IT professionals since January 2016.(HT Archive)

These are tough times for Indian IT professionals, after trouble with H-1B visas in the US, Singapore is the latest to join the list of countries not eager to accept them.

The trouble with Singapore visas began in January 2016 with no new visas being issues. The thrust from the city-state has been to hire locally, which Indian IT firms will find difficult to follow. Most of India’s top IT companies from TCS, Infosys, Wipro to Cognizant have offices in Singapore.

“No new visas mean that existing ones will not be renewed and that will make it difficult to maintain existing levels of workfore,” said Nasscom president, R Chandrashekhar. He added that the hire locally diktat from Singapore is not possible to meet, as a workforce with the required level of expertise is not found there.

Sources say that Singapore has imposed several conditions making it difficult for companies to hire resources from India. This is a violation of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), say sources, and has led India to put on hold a review of this trade pact.

In recent years, many countries have adopted a protectionist outlook while making stringent provisions to reduce foreign professionals from working. Apart from Singapore and US, India is also facing similar visa problems from UK.

“UK is another area where active discussions are going on. You have to remember that the US visa problems are nothing new. There have always been critics and efforts to reduce the number of H-1B visas since the last 3-4 years,” said Chandrashekhar.

The US grants 65,000 H-1B visas annually to foreign workers hired abroad and an additional 20,000 to foreign students enrolled in the country’s colleges and universities. Critics of the programme have argued that it is used by American companies to replace local workers with foreigners on lower wages.

New Delhi, which has argued it is a trade issue and helps American companies remain competitive, has been following these discussions in the Trump administration very closely because Indian companies such as Infosys, TCS and Wipro use the programme widely for their businesses in the US.