Despite opposition from influential Indian lobbies in the US, the Indian government itself, and large technology companies including Google and Microsoft (both headed by Indians who have become US citizens), it is likely that President Donald Trump will carry on with his plans on H-1B visas. Cracking down on immigrant workers taking American jobs was one of his campaign promises and it is possible he will try to follow through on it.(AFP)
Despite opposition from influential Indian lobbies in the US, the Indian government itself, and large technology companies including Google and Microsoft (both headed by Indians who have become US citizens), it is likely that President Donald Trump will carry on with his plans on H-1B visas. Cracking down on immigrant workers taking American jobs was one of his campaign promises and it is possible he will try to follow through on it.(AFP)

H-1B visa debate: In modern diplomacy, self-interest rules | Chanakya

The news of the Trump administration’s latest plan on H-1B visas came the same week as its fusillade against Pakistan for aiding and abetting terror groups, and, eventually, the complete stoppage of US aid to that country. This development should cheer India, almost as much as the H-1B development should disappoint it. Then, that’s the way of modern diplomacy.
By Chanakya | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 07, 2018 09:45 AM IST

There are several Indian sub-cultures in the United States. The farmers from Punjab who migrated to different parts of California decades ago. The students who went to study and stayed back at a time when the immigration regime wasn’t as harsh as it is now. That worked out well for them and their adopted country — the fact that there are so many Indians in senior executive positions in US companies, including some in corner offices, can be attributed to this. Then there are the tech workers with H-1B visas, many of whom see the US as home and who, along with their families, have built their lives and careers in that country. There are several others, but it is the third group that is the focus of this piece.

First, the numbers. Between 2007 and 2017, the US received 3.4 million applications for H-1B visas. Of this, 2.1 million were from Indians. The US granted 2.6 million of these, a 76.47% hit rate. No country-specific details on the number of visas granted are available, but one can calculate from this that around 1.6 million Indians were granted H-1B visas. Technology workers, who met the “specialty position” criterion required for such visas, were almost exclusively the beneficiaries of this. As were their spouses, usually on dependent H4 visas, and children. Indeed, some of the children were born in the US, and are, therefore, US citizens.

The H-1B visa allows a person to stay in the US for six years. Time spent outside the country, even on holidays, doesn’t count. So, an Indian with an H-1B visa who visits his parents in Chennai for three weeks over Christmas and New Year can add that time to his stay in the US. There are other ways in which these visas can be extended — including pending applications for a Green Card, which effectively grants a person the right to be a permanent resident in the US without being a citizen. It is likely that some of the 1.6 million Indians granted H-1B visas since 2007 have already acquired Green Cards or become citizens of the US.

The H1B visa, and another a little like it, the L1, have become flashpoints in the backlash in the US against immigrant workers. Both Indian companies with business in the US and large US technology firms have benefited from the expertise of such workers, but there has also been criticism that, in some instances, these visas have just been used to get lower-paid foreign technology workers to replace highly-paid Americans.

There has been some misuse of the H-1B visa regime by Indian companies and workers, but, in general, the Indian tech workers in the US on such visas are good, honest people (except when it comes to visas in some cases) who respect the rule of the law, are upstanding members of the community, and, more importantly, outstanding examples of the American Dream .

Every US administration for the past decade-and-half has made noises about cracking down on H-1B s, but none has made as much as the current Trump administration. In recent days, the Indian community in the US has been roiled by news that the visa regime may be changed to ensure that those H1B visa holders whose Green Card, or other applications are being processed, can’t stay beyond six years in the US. That could affect between 500000 and 750000 H-1B visa holders according to the media reports, including in this publication. Accounting for their spouses and children who are not already US citizens, the overall number of Indians affected could be anything around 1.5 million. Last month, there were reports that the Trump administration could end a rule that allows the spouses of those with H1-B visas (those on H4 dependent visas) to work in the US, a change that was made only in 2015 after much lobbying by and to much acclaim from the expatriate technology worker community.

If the Trump administration goes ahead with these plans, it could mean the end of the American Dream for an entire generation of Indian technology workers. It could disrupt the lives of their families, in the US, and back home in India. And it could also affect the business models of large Indian technology outsourcing firms, although many claims that their dependence on H-1B visa holders isn’t as high as it was in the 2000s.

Despite opposition from influential Indian lobbies in the US, the Indian government itself, and large technology companies including Google and Microsoft (both headed by Indians who have become US citizens), it is likely that President Donald Trump will carry on with his plans. Cracking down on immigrant workers taking American jobs was one of his campaign promises and it is possible he will try to follow through on it.

Interestingly, news of the Trump administration’s latest plan on H-1B visas came the same week as its fusillade against Pakistan for aiding and abetting terror groups, and, eventually, the complete stoppage of US aid to that country. This development should cheer India, almost as much as the H-1B development should disappoint it. India has long hoped that the US, one of Pakistan’s closest allies, would get tough with a country which it sees as a supporter and instigator of terror groups targeting India.

Then, that’s the way of modern diplomacy. To paraphrase Henry Kissinger, there are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests. It’s a lesson India would do well to learn (and there are some signs it is doing that) as it looks out for its own interests.

letters@hindustantimes.com

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
There are bound to be glitches — a power breakdown that ruins some doses; delays in the vaccine reaching some remote corners of the country; at least, some jumping of queues. But this is an exercise that India will manage well. If all goes well, a month from now, the country could well have more people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine than any other country (AFP)
There are bound to be glitches — a power breakdown that ruins some doses; delays in the vaccine reaching some remote corners of the country; at least, some jumping of queues. But this is an exercise that India will manage well. If all goes well, a month from now, the country could well have more people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine than any other country (AFP)

In India, the story of Covid-19 vaccines

PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 07:16 PM IST
India has done well. The rollout of the vaccines, despite a set of concerns, is a scientific milestone. But the State must, now, plan ahead
Close
Since its inception, WhatsApp has claimed security and privacy as its core DNA. With its new “take-it-or-leave-it” policy, Whatsapp essentially threatened users of deleting their accounts, unless they accept the new terms before May (AFP)
Since its inception, WhatsApp has claimed security and privacy as its core DNA. With its new “take-it-or-leave-it” policy, Whatsapp essentially threatened users of deleting their accounts, unless they accept the new terms before May (AFP)

Making privacy a mainstream debate

By Prabhu Ram
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 07:09 PM IST
While messages remain secure and encrypted, as Facebook seeks to build more tighter cross-platform integration across its ecosystem, the user data on WhatsApp could fall prey to it through data sharing or targeted and precise advertising
Close
When Sitharaman weighs up the short-term political consequences of following the advice she is receiving, I’m sure she will be aware of the longer-term political consequence of getting the arithmetic wrong (Mohd Zakir/HT PHOTO)
When Sitharaman weighs up the short-term political consequences of following the advice she is receiving, I’m sure she will be aware of the longer-term political consequence of getting the arithmetic wrong (Mohd Zakir/HT PHOTO)

Budget 2021: Balance economics with politics

By Mark Tully
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 07:03 PM IST
With the budget just over two weeks away, economist after economist is calling on finance minister (FM) Nirmala Sitharaman to spend, spend and spend
Close
Outlawing smoking in public places such as hotels, restaurants, cinema halls and bars is something we have accepted (AFP photo)
Outlawing smoking in public places such as hotels, restaurants, cinema halls and bars is something we have accepted (AFP photo)

Where the State should step back

PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 06:55 PM IST
I can understand bans on smoking in areas or circumstances where others who are not smoking get affected. But when an adult smokes on his own, the government has no business to intervene
Close
The incoming Joe Biden administration will avoid many of the personality-related pitfalls of its predecessor, and the presence of a core group of advisers in key security agencies suggests that coordination may be better than the first Obama term (REUTERS)
The incoming Joe Biden administration will avoid many of the personality-related pitfalls of its predecessor, and the presence of a core group of advisers in key security agencies suggests that coordination may be better than the first Obama term (REUTERS)

All the President’s men and women

By Dhruva Jaishankar
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 07:02 PM IST
The incoming US national security and foreign policy team looks, on paper, to be one of the most experienced in history. How it translates into outcomes is to be seen
Close
While such incidents have raised issues of institutional discrimination, there are constant attempts, as was also done in Vemula’s case, to evade institutional accountability by attributing these instances as being incident-specific. (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)
While such incidents have raised issues of institutional discrimination, there are constant attempts, as was also done in Vemula’s case, to evade institutional accountability by attributing these instances as being incident-specific. (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)

The modern form of institutionalised casteism

By Anurag Bhaskar
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 06:44 PM IST
India needs to move beyond tokenism of having one Dalit chief justice or two Dalit presidents, and ensure adequate representation to its Dalit and Adivasi citizens in all fields
Close
Pro-Trump protesters storm the Capitol Building, January 6. (REUTERS)
Pro-Trump protesters storm the Capitol Building, January 6. (REUTERS)

The psychology of Trump’s supporters

By Yashwant Raj
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 06:35 PM IST
As President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the United States (US) Capitol on January 6, I wondered if a man I had interviewed at a Trump rally in Pennsylvania was among them.
Close
There are many common problems in smallholder agriculture, such as low productivity, investments and market access, which keep farm incomes low across India (PTI)
There are many common problems in smallholder agriculture, such as low productivity, investments and market access, which keep farm incomes low across India (PTI)

Farm laws: What India can learn from Kenya’s agri experiment

By Swati Dhingra
UPDATED ON JAN 15, 2021 08:38 AM IST
Recent research at the London School of Economics examines a decade of high-quality farmer-buyer data from Kenya during a period when it introduced radical farm laws to encourage agri-businesses to determine impacts on small farmers
Close
At the heart of the conflict is an acute trust deficit, a deepening mistrust of the nexus between untrammelled State power and big business (Biplov Bhuyan/HT PHOTO)
At the heart of the conflict is an acute trust deficit, a deepening mistrust of the nexus between untrammelled State power and big business (Biplov Bhuyan/HT PHOTO)

The anti-corporate texture of farm protests

UPDATED ON JAN 15, 2021 08:38 AM IST
It is symbolic of a wider discontent against emerging market monopolies and fears of this being replicated in the agricultural sector
Close
Countries concerned about China’s dominance are likely to prioritise strategic implications of investments over India’s economic inefficiencies (AP)
Countries concerned about China’s dominance are likely to prioritise strategic implications of investments over India’s economic inefficiencies (AP)

Weaning away foreign investment from China

By Manoj Kewalramani
PUBLISHED ON JAN 14, 2021 07:29 PM IST
Capitalising on emergent geopolitical trends entails working with like-minded partners focusing on sectors with national security implications
Close
Despite all efforts, the gross domestic expenditure on R&D as a fraction of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has declined from 0.8% in 2010 to 0.6% in 2018. It has been hovering around this level for more than two decades. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Despite all efforts, the gross domestic expenditure on R&D as a fraction of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has declined from 0.8% in 2010 to 0.6% in 2018. It has been hovering around this level for more than two decades. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

To truly become self-reliant, invest in research and development

By Rahul Mazumdar
PUBLISHED ON JAN 13, 2021 08:30 PM IST
India has always been found lacking in terms of academia-industry linkages. This is a bedrock in developed economies.
Close
The British Raj responded as it did in Champaran 104 years ago. Swaraj must do likewise and enter its 75th year with the glow of the health and happiness of farmers on its forehead. This is its “indigo moment”. (Sameer Sehgal/HTPhoto)
The British Raj responded as it did in Champaran 104 years ago. Swaraj must do likewise and enter its 75th year with the glow of the health and happiness of farmers on its forehead. This is its “indigo moment”. (Sameer Sehgal/HTPhoto)

Champaran to Singhu: A tale of two satyagrahas

PUBLISHED ON JAN 13, 2021 07:47 PM IST
To assuage the protesting farmers, the Centre must suspend the Acts indefinitely, refer demands to the Inter-State Council; and call a Parliament session
Close
When Facebook gains the data on a billion Indians, it will be able to hold the Indian government hostage too. It didn’t dare to pull this stunt in Europe because of the General Data Protection Regulations (AP)
When Facebook gains the data on a billion Indians, it will be able to hold the Indian government hostage too. It didn’t dare to pull this stunt in Europe because of the General Data Protection Regulations (AP)

At the mercy of big tech billionaires

By Vivek Wadhwa
PUBLISHED ON JAN 13, 2021 07:46 PM IST
India needs stringent data protection laws. It also needs to encourage its tech industry to develop competitive social media products
Close
Data as a beneficial good is also covered in the Economic Survey 2019, which proposed that data gathered by governments on issues of social interest ought to be democratised in the interest of social welfare, or made a public good (Indranil Bhoumik/mint)
Data as a beneficial good is also covered in the Economic Survey 2019, which proposed that data gathered by governments on issues of social interest ought to be democratised in the interest of social welfare, or made a public good (Indranil Bhoumik/mint)

Data can be an asset for governance, growth and public welfare

By Amitabh Kant and Desh Gaurav Sekhri
PUBLISHED ON JAN 12, 2021 08:16 PM IST
Data is a critical component for measurable and actionable governance and policy perspectives, as well as for triggering innovation and growth
Close
Experts say preventing bird flu is not possible as little research has been done on the virus-carrying capability of migratory birds in CAF (Parveen Kumar/Hindustan Times)
Experts say preventing bird flu is not possible as little research has been done on the virus-carrying capability of migratory birds in CAF (Parveen Kumar/Hindustan Times)

Handling the avian flu crisis | HT Editorial

PUBLISHED ON JAN 12, 2021 08:00 PM IST
2021 has started with an unprecedented bird flu epidemic in India, causing the death of thousands of wild and poultry birds in 10 states and bleeding the fast-growing poultry industry for a second time over the past year
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP