New US H-1B norms won’t make much difference

Bengaluru, The United States’ latest move on issuing H-1B visas to software engineers will not make much difference to Indian IT firms, apex industry body Nasscom said on Friday.

“The new measure will be an unnecessary and expensive burden that will not make much difference to our member firms, which are in the business of providing solutions to client companies,” said the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) in a statement here.

In line with US President Donald Trump’s “Buy American and Hire American” policy, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Thursday declared that the hiring firms have to prove that their employees working at a third-party worksite have specific and non-qualifying speculative agreements in specialty occupation.

“The resilient Indian IT industry has demonstrated that as sponsoring employers, they maintain control over and relationship with their visa holders,” Nasscom President R. Chandrashekar told IANS.

Noting that the latest move appeared to be at odds with the Trump Administration’s effort to reduce regulation and red-tape, the IT body said it was assessing the potential impact and would share details of the policy.

“Initial perusal suggests that the new policy applies to all third-party placements and not just involving Indian or dependent companies,” Nasscom said.

The new policy envisages a detailed documentation of a legitimate employer-employee relationship while the latter is working at a third-party worksite.

“The hiring firm has to prove that its employee working at a third-party worksite has specific and non-qualifying speculative assignments in specialty occupation,” said USCIS in a release from Washington.

The H-1B programme offers temporary US visas that allow firms to hire skilled overseas professionals working in areas with shortage of qualified American workers.

Indians get most of the H1-B visas, although there are no national quotas for the facility nor is it specifically designed for Indians.

Under the new policy, the USCIS says the employers must provide contracts and itineraries for employees who will work at a third-party location.

Executive placement services major Head Hunters’ Managing Director Kris Lakshmikanth said the new policy would, however, affect mid-size and smaller Indian IT firms, which will find it difficult to get H-1B visas from this year.

“The new policy will not impact bigger Indian IT firms like TCS, Infosys, Wipro and HCL. But mid-size and smaller firms, which do body shopping and application development will be affected, as they will find it difficult to get inter-company papers from bigger clients for H-1B visas,” Lakshmikanth told IANS here.

Of the 65,000 H-1B visas the USCIS issues for October 1-September 30 period every year, about 40,000 are bagged by Indian firms, mostly in the services sector. The top 10 global firms, including TCS, Infosys, Wipro, HCL and Tech Mahindra, corner about 20,000-25,000, with the remaining shared by mid-size and smaller Indian firms.

“As software majors like TCS, Infosys and Wipro work for global corporates and Fortune 500 firms, getting H-1B visas is not an issue, as they will get valid documents from their clients to apply for this category of visa,” noted Lakshmikanth.

Mid-size and smaller firms with few clients take huge money from techies desperate to work in the US and apply for H-1B visas on their behalf. Many of them are relatives or friends of these firms, which will have a subsidiary or a marketing office in the US.

“Many Indian-origin engineers or technocrats living in the US over the last two-three decades have also set up IT firms to provide software services and products to American clients. They also apply and get H-1B visas on behalf of the techies who cough up huge amounts to work in the US,” Lakshmikanth added.

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