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H-1B visa rules: Families of techies stare at uncertainty, some look to Canada

An H-1B visa is granted for three years, with the provision of three more with one extension after which visa holders return to their countries. If approved for Green Card, they wait in the US using extensions.

india Updated: Jan 04, 2018 21:12 IST
Vikram Gopal and Srinivasa Rao Apparasu
Vikram Gopal and Srinivasa Rao Apparasu
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru/Hyderabad
H1B visa,Indian techies,US
A supporter of President Donald Trump challenges police officers at a rally in LA, on January 3, 2018. Trump’s ‘Buy American, Hire American’ slogan – his push to bring jobs back into the country – has caused anxiety among foreign nationals employed in the US.(AP)

Shailaja Swamy and Anjani Kovvur live 600 kilometers apart and have never met in their lives but for the past few days, their lives have been engulfed in the same worry. Both women have children working in the United States who will be affected by a proposal to end the practice of granting extensions to H-1B visa holders whose applications for permanent residency are pending.

Reactions to the proposal, which could lead to 500,000-750,000 Indians returning home, are drastically different though. Swamy, an officer at a public sector bank in Bengaluru, says she is worried about her son Abhijit, who works for a multinational corporation because of the persistent uncertainty around H-1B visas throughout last year. “The sheer repetition of this kind of news is adding to our anxiety.”

On the other hand, Kovvur in Hyderabad is defiant and certain if her sons were sent back, they would get good jobs in India. “Let him (US President Donald Trump) implement the decision and see the repercussion on the US economy. Will the US companies get better manpower than our Indians?”

Not everyone is as confident. Darshan Srinivasan, 35, who works for Tivo and had gone to the US multiple times, said among his peer group there was a sense that they had look beyond the US for opportunities. “There is a fear that there will be uncertainty to our employment in the US,” Srinivasan said. “As a result, many of my friends are trying to apply to jobs where there is a possibility to move to other countries. And Canada is now emerging as an appealing proposition,” he said.

R Chandrashekhar, president of industry lobby group NASSCOM, said the fears about the latest move were exaggerated and that the proposal would affect Indian workers in general, and not just the IT sector. “The critical thing to look at is the series of moves that cumulatively intend to make it more difficult to hire Indian employees,” he said.

The US proposal has been circulated in the form of an internal memo in the department of homeland security, which oversees citizenship and immigration, and intends to end the provision of granting extensions to H-1B visa holders whose applications for permanent residency (Green Card) had been accepted.

An H-1B visa is granted for three years, with the provision of three more with one extension after which visa holders return to their countries. If approved for Green Card, they wait in the US using extensions.

In Hyderabad, techies said they were worried but certain that big American tech companies would resist the move.

“More than 40% Indians employed in US firms with H1-B visas do not have green cards yet. And no company will be willing them to be deported as their operations will collapse. So, these companies will be the first ones to resist the Trump decision,” Satish Chandra S, an engineer working with software giant Qualcomm, told Hindustan Times.

Mohandas Pai, former chief financial officer of Infosys, agreed and said it was wrong to target Indian IT companies. “Reports on the numbers of those likely to be affected seem exaggerated,” he said.

“More than Indian firms, any such move is likely to affect American companies,” he added. For this reason, Pai said, American companies would lobby hard because Indian workers were better qualified and provide better services.

First Published: Jan 04, 2018 07:56 IST