H-1B a trade and services issue, will keep a close watch

Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

India today said it was keeping a "close watch" on the U.S. tightening the H-1B visa rules which will impact Indian IT industry and professionals, and asserted that the issue will be taken up with the Trump administration.

"Nothing is being proposed that would impact or change the fiscal 2018 H-1B lottery that is now underway". Speaking about this trend, R Chandrashekhar, president of Indian IT Industry body Nasscom said that the concerns are due to the perceptions that the USA is increasingly becoming a protectionist regime. India has reportedly dragged, not only the U.S. but also Australia and New Zealand to the WTO regarding the new nationalistic policies on the movement of foreign professionals.

Instead, on Tuesday, Trump signed the executive order named "Buy American and Hire American" in which he directed the U.S. secretary of state, attorney general, secretary of labor and secretary of homeland security "to suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid beneficiaries". The programme will be replaced by another visa programme with new restrictions.

The spokesperson said that what has happened in the United States is that an executive order has been passed.

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Nasscom also warned of the unintended consequences of using salary levels or skills as the metric to judge the merit of an H-1B application as it "could advantage certain regions such as Silicon Valley over other regions of the US" while also placing "federal bureaucrats in the role of technology consultants and human resource specialists". Less than a week after the application period opened for 2017 H-1B visas, the annual cap was reached from a pool of 199,000 applications, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services said earlier this month.

Australia has abolished a specialised visa programme called 457 visa, which has been mostly used by over 95,000 temporary foreign workers, majority of them Indians, to tackle the growing unemployment.

Referring to Australia replacing its popular 457 work visa programme with another programme, he said senior Australian officials have conveyed to India that "the impact of the changes will be negligible on Indian workers, most of whom fall in high skill category".

It also directs a separate review of government purchasing requirements, which, along with tightening the requirements for foreign workers, is a move by Trump to carry out his "America First" election campaign pledge.

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