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Nasscom seeks hike in H-1B visa quota

Indian software industry body Nasscom presses for an increase in the quota of H-1B visas for India, reports Venkatesh Ganesh.

business Updated: May 07, 2007 04:19 IST

Indian software industry body Nasscom has pressed for an increase in the quota of H-1B visas for India.

In a presentation before US Indian Business Alliance (USIBA), an independent business alliance between US and Indian business, and Congressman John Conyers, the group called for increased lobbying in this context.

H-1B visas are non-immigrant visas that are granted to ‘specialty occupations’ including technology, biotech and other knowledge-oriented sectors. The number of H-1B visas granted by the US was drastically reduced from 195,000 to 65,000 in 2004.

Both US and Indian companies have repeatedly stressed the need to raise the cap.

In the meeting held in Washington DC, Conyers, who chaired, urged USIBA and Nasscom to testify at upcoming hearings of a Congressinal panel looking into the issue of immigration, on H-1B visas and green card-related matters.

Demand for H-1B visas is particularly high among IT professionals. This year, on April 2, the first day of applications for fresh H-1B visas, over 133,000 people applied.

Chris Cannon, co-chair of the Congressional Task Force of US-India investment and trade relations, said the House would push for a comprehensive immigration reforms package that will address USIBA’s concerns. “I have been working on immigration reform for the last 11 years, and I am confident that this Congress will make things happen,” he said.

Outgoing Nasscom president Kiran Karnik said: “Today, India’s information technology sector has generated thousands of jobs in the US by setting up offices and development facilities across the country. It would be our pleasure to work with members of Congress in taking this effort forward.”

He said over 300 of Nasscom’s 1,200 members are American corporations, and the move to increase the quota of visas would help both sides in the long run.

Quelling fears expressed by a section of American politicians, Karnik said that H-1B visa holders do not take away American jobs; instead they supplement the American workforce by filling in the skills gap in the technology sector. This, he reckons will help American companies to compete with the best.

“Chairman Conyers also recognises that foreign skilled workers are only a minority and they have a tremendous impact on the US economy,” said USIBA president Sanjay Puri.

Recently, the US Senate has approved a doubling of the highly coveted H-1B work visas from 65,000 to 1,15,000, with an option to raise the cap by 20 per cent annually, but has yet to be enshrined in a law.