H-1B visa fight to get tougher for IT companies


NEW DELHI: Immigration and visa issues, which have long plagued the information technology sector, could come back to hurt Indian IT services companies this year as the US heads towards presidential election in 2016.

In the US, the biggest market for the Indian IT services sector, “this will be a bloody, contentious election and immigration reform is right up there for discussion”, said Phil Fersht, founder and chief executive of HfS Research.

“The displacement of US IT and back-office jobs will be a significant issue leading up to 2016.” India’s $146-billion IT outsourcing industry has been a beneficiary of the temporary US work visas that are required by skilled foreign workers to work in that country. The employees working at client locations in the US are issued H-1B visas, which have a cap of 65,000 a year.

The US Congress in recent months has been considering Bills that seek to triple the cap of H-1B visas to 1,95,000. There is, however, a growing discontent about the H-1B visa process among skilled workers in the US, who say the visas are a way for big companies to hire cheaper foreign workers.

Recent examples they cite include electricity company Southern California Edison and entertainment company Disney where local employees were laid off and replaced by H-1B visa holders. The layoffs have prompted some US Senators to call for investigations into the visa process used by the companies.

“US workers who have trained a temporary visa-holding replacement as a condition of their severance describe it as a profoundly humiliating experience. These workers see a direct connection between the US government’s H-1B visa policies and their job loss, and they are furious,” said Patrick Thibodeau, senior editor at Computerworld.

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