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Turn the H-1B rule tweaks into an opportunity

The recent change in the visa regime will give an edge to applicants with degrees from US institutions and make it a little more difficult for Indian outsourcing firms to hire from overseas

editorials Updated: Dec 06, 2018 17:44 IST
Hindustan Times
The Trump administration has unveiled yet more tweaks to the rules for the H-1B visa programme (AFP)

The Trump administration has unveiled yet more tweaks to the rules for the H-1B visa programme that will give an edge to applicants with degrees from US institutions and make it a little more difficult for Indian outsourcing firms to hire from overseas. Under the existing system, people with a master’s or doctoral degree from the US first get a shot at a lottery meant only for applicants with American degrees that gives out 20,000 H-1B visas. If they fail to make the cut, they are eligible for a lottery for the remaining 65,000 visas. The US department of homeland security now plans to switch the order of the lotteries with the ultimate objective of achieving a 16% increase in the number of H-1B visa holders with advanced degrees from the US. For a long time, Indian outsourcing firms have been accused by American authorities of flooding the H-1B lottery with applications, and experts believe the proposed changes are aimed at tackling this issue. There have also been allegations that these firms have been bringing in lowly paid workers to replace Americans.

India continues to raise its concerns regarding the H-1B programme during all its interactions with the top US leadership, and Indian firms have taken steps to address some of the issues raised by the American side. A California jury recently cleared Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) of anti-American bias in hiring. Research by the Brookings Institute has also shown the H-1B programme helps fill a shortage of workers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) occupations, and that these visa holders are generally paid more than US-born workers with a bachelor’s degree.

It would probably be more prudent for India’s tech industry and policy makers to look at options in other countries that need highly skilled professionals instead of putting all their eggs in the H-1B basket as the law of diminishing returns appears to have kicked in.

First Published: Dec 06, 2018 17:19 IST