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Immigration issues: Indian IT in crosshairs of US gang of eight

business Updated: May 05, 2013 20:11 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
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Indian IT companies with operations in the US are firmly in the crosshairs of the gang of eight. These companies are being seen as without friends here. Not in the administration and - more crucially now - not on the Capital Hill.

Sure, India has protested with the US on their behalf. Its ambassador here wrote an newspaper article about their contributions to the US economy.

But Indian firms such as TCS, Infosys and Wipro, the focus of restrictive provisions of a bill before the US Senate overhauling the H-1B visa regime, and other immigration issues, seem to be fighting a losing battle. Or worse, not even fighting.

The bill doubles H-1B visas needed by firms to hire foreign staff but makes it difficult for H-1B-dependent firms to hire more.

That's not what the Democrat-controlled Senate wants.

But it is what US IT giants, who according to New York Times, have "openly encouraged lawmakers to make it harder for consulting companies in India and elsewhere to provide foreign workers temporarily to this country," are pitching for.

Indian lobbying efforts have been, therefore, largely futile. Indian commerce secretary SR Rao wrote recently to acting US trade representative Demetrios Marantis calling these restrictive provisions protectionist in nature.

Ambassador Nirupama Rao wrote an oped article in USA Today calling for a "generous visa policy" arguing that Indian IT firms bring to the US much needed skill sets and create jobs.

And on a recent visit, finance minister P Chidambaram told his US counterpart Jack Lew that temporary relocation of IT workers to provide on-site service is not an immigration issue.

A new study by the National Foundation for American Policy showed H-1B visas are good for the US economy, and that Indian IT firms are not cornering most of them.

But the Hill, home to US lawmakers appears unmoved.

Many congressional aides said in interviews that India and its tech firms were not making much headway.

Indian lobbying efforts may been queered by an impression gaining ground in the Senate that two of the senators who authored the bill, Democrat Richard Durbin and Republican Charles Grassley, are being targeted.

Lobbying efforts by these companies and their supporters are now turning towards the other arm of US congress - the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

The bill must pass both houses before landing on President Obama's table for his signature. As of now, the House doesn't appear too keen on the Senate bill.