The United States has conveyed to India that there is no significant change in the H-1B visa regime, commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Monday.
Sitharaman said in the Lok Sabha that India is articulating its concerns regarding the visa policy vigorously with the new US administration led by President Donald Trump, who has stressed the “America first” motto.
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.
However, Sitharaman said there is no significant change in the H-1B visa regime.
“The fear, at least for 2017, is not proved to be correct. They (US authorities) are saying their current priority is to deal with the illegal immigrants,” she said during the Question Hour.
Sitharaman said the government took up the issue with a visiting Congressional delegation led by Bob Goodlatte and during visits of the commerce secretary and the foreign secretary to the US during first week of March 2017.
The minister said India’s concerns on visa issues were articulated during the Strategic and Commerce Dialogue 2016 and Trade Policy Forum 2016 held in October, 2016.
She said India had decided to continue their engagement on visa issues and reiterated their shared resolve to facilitate the movement of professionals.
Sitharaman said a number of industry bodies have raised concerns on visa policies of the US and these concerns were conveyed to the US authorities by the government.
The minister said the US monitors policies of 73 countries and India may be one of them.
“But we don’t recognise any monitoring by any countries. No unilateral policing is acceptable for India,” she said.
(With PTI inputs)