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Fewer takers for H-1B visas this year, thanks to President Trump

Updated: Apr 23, 2017 08:26 IST

Washington/New Delhi/Melbourne: The number of petitions the US received for the high-skill H-1B visas in 2017 dropped unexpectedly, and sharply, for the first time in four years amid speculation that it was due to the Trump administration’s hostile measures and Indian tech companies scaling down applications for fear of reprisals.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which runs the H-1B visa programme, announced on Monday it had received 199,000 applications in 2017 for the 2018 cycle. This was 37,000 less than the 236,000 in 2016, ending a rising trend.

The USCIS got 233,000 applications in 2015 and 172,500 in 2014.

“It is a significant drop,” said George Ganey, an immigration lawyer in Maryland, who was expecting the numbers to rise because of the improving economy. “There is no doubt that it has been caused at least in part by President Trump’s election.”

Trump will sign an executive order later on Tuesday ordering a full review of the temporary visa programme for high-skilled foreign workers and seek recommendations on how to prevent it from being used to displace Americans.The order, which the President is expected to sign during a visit to a manufacturing facility in Wisconsin state, will direct departments of justice, labour, state and homeland security to suggest reforms and ways to prevent “fraud and abuse”.

Indians are by far the largest recipients of these visas — 70% in 2015 — and Indian outsourcing firms, who bring them to the US, have found themselves under withering scrutiny and criticism, from both Republicans and Democrats.

Mukesh Aghi, president of the US-India Business Council, a trade body, attributed the fall to “much lower petitions from Indian companies”. He didn’t know by how much, but industry sources said it could be by as much as 20% or 30%. Indian tech companies are among the highest recipients of H-1B visas and have been accused of “gaming the system” by filing a huge number of applications, apparently much in excess of their need, to crowd out American counterparts.

They have been under increasing scrutiny in recent years, and more so since Trump’s election, with the new administration threatening raids and inspections to prevent alleged abuse of the programme to displace American workers. The US grants 65,000 H-1B visas every year to highly skilled foreign workers and 20,000 to foreigners enrolled in advanced studies in American colleges and universities, subject to a congressionally mandated annual cap of 85,000.

More Indians seek jobs back home as Trump cracks down on H-1B visa

Meanwhile, more Indians living in the US want a job back home after Donald Trump became the president of the world’s largest economy. The number of Indians in the US searching for jobs in India has gone up more than 10 times between December and March, according to an analysis by consulting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Pvt Ltd, shared exclusively with Mint.

There were approximately 600 US-based Indians seeking jobs in India in December 2016. By the end of March 2017, the number of had gone up to approximately 7,000, Deloitte analysis said. This data comes amid a crackdown by the Trump administration on job visas for skilled workers, including software engineers from India.

On an average, global in-house centres (GICs) add 50,000 to 70,000 people in India every year and due to the volume requirements, this number is expected to go up, according to Nasscom. As per the lobby group, there are over 1,000 GICs in India. Of these, around 67% of them are of US origin.


Oz abolishes visa programme used largely by Indians

Australia will abolish a popular work visa used by over 95,000 foreign workers, majority of them Indians, to tackle the growing unemployment in the country and replace it with a new programme requiring higher English-language profiency and job skills. The programme known as 457 visa allows business to employ foreign workers for a period up to four years in skilled jobs where there is a shortage of Australian workers.

“We are an immigration nation, but the fact remains: Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs, so

we are abolishing the 457 visa, the visa that brings temporary foreign workers into our country,” said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The majority of the visa holders under this category were from India, accounting almost a quarter of the intake,

followed by the UK and China at 19.5% and 5.8% respectively, ABC reported.

First Published: Apr 23, 2017 07:59 IST