US bill to curb H-1B visas fraught with challenges: Nasscom

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A reform bill to restrict Indian IT firms from getting H-1B visas for posting their techies in the US is fraught with challenges, said the industry’s representative body Nasscom on Tuesday.

“The Lofgren Bill contains provisions that may prove challenging for the Indian IT sector and leave loopholes that will nullify the objective of saving US jobs,” asserted Nasscom in a statement here.

California Congressman Zoe Lofgren on Monday introduced the bill to amend the High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017 for doubling the minimum salary of H-1B visa holders to $130,000 from $60,000 per annum and prevent their spouses from getting work permits.

“Though the bill has to go through a legislative process at the US Congress and the Senate for becoming law, it does not treat all IT service firms with H-1B visa holders equally and the provisions are biased against H-1B dependant firms,” said Nasscom President R. Chandrashekhar.

Assuring the industry of engaging with the US administration and its lawmakers through the Indian government, the former IT secretary said the apex body would highlight their value contribution as a ‘net creator’ of jobs in the US.

“The Indian IT sector has helped American businesses by providing high-skilled IT solutions in order to innovate, open new markets, expand their operations and creating thousands of new jobs for Americans,” claimed Chandrashekhar.

The bill does not address the acute shortage of STEM-skilled workers in the US, which led all companies to have a calibrated hiring of locals and bridging the skills gap with skilled workers on non-immigrant visas, including H-1Bs.

The bill also does nothing to consider regional variations in salary structure, which could help some states and hurt others.

“The higher wage level will have ripple effects for other industries including nursing, engineering, life sciences, and others,” he pointed.

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

If the rationale for the (Trump) Administration and its legislative wing is to project jobs for Americans, the industry body said the US government should calibrate the conditions keeping in view the skill shortage in its country.

“Raising wage levels for dependent companies alone will defeat the basic objective as non-dependent firms can continue to bring in skilled workers at lower wage levels, thereby nullifying the objective of protecting jobs for American nationals,” added Chandrashekhar.