Indian IT services firms relying less on visas as approval rates nosedive

Apart from large technology majors, large financial institutions as well as retailers were beneficiaries of the temporary work visa programme.
Indian information technology (IT) services firms’ reliance on non-immigrant visas has been falling over the years as most companies pursue an aggressive localisation strategy. This strategy is in sync with rising rejection rates that companies are facing in their visa applications. 

Against this backdrop, the recent move by the Trump Administration to ban employment visas till December is unlikely to have any impact on Indian IT firms. According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services data, the share of Indian companies among the top 10 visa recipients has dropped from 51 per cent to 24 per cent during the 2016-19 period. 

For the financial year 2019 ended September (immigration cycle), global technology firms were the major beneficiaries of the H1B visa programme. It allowed temporary migration of workers for a specific job in the US. 

In the last financial year, Amazon received 3,026 initial approvals for the H1B visa. Google got initial approvals for 2,678 visas. Microsoft Corporation received 1,701 applications. Facebook had 1,518 H1B visa approvals in 2019.

Other major beneficiaries included Apple, with 1,136 applications approved, Intel Corporation 1,007 approvals, Cisco 688 approvals, and Oracle America 536 approvals. 

Apart from the large technology majors, even large financial institutions and retailers were the beneficiaries of this temporary work visa programme. 

For instance, JPMorgan had 431 initial approvals, while it was 461 for Walmart. During this period, Salesforce had 267 approvals, while PwC Advisory received 233 initial H1B visa approvals.

In comparison, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) had received 1,733 approvals. It was 757 for Infosys, the country’s second-largest IT services company. 
For Wipro, it was at 605. For HCL Technologies (HCL Tech), it was 454. 

For Tech Mahindra, the H1B approvals in the last financial year stood at 935. 

An analysis of the top 30 employers with most visa approvals compiled by Kotak Institutional Equities showed that around 60 per cent of the visas approved had gone to the US companies operating in both technology and non-technology space.

“The dependence of Indian IT firms on visa is slowly declining. Despite the visa ban till December, most tier-I IT services firms will not see their dependence rising on subcontractors, as companies are looking at utilising their own resources,” said Aditya Narayan Mishra, director and chief executive officer, CIEL HR Services.

This sentiment was also reflected by the top management of IT services firms. Last week, Infosys Chief Operating Officer U B Pravin Rao told shareholders at its annual general meeting that the IT firm had more than 60 per cent workers who are locals in the US. 
Infosys is well prepared (to face the visa ban) due to the strong localisation strategy. We have significantly reduced our dependence on visas,” Rao had said. 

According to a Kotak Institutional Equities report, Wipro had the highest localisation ratio of close to 70 per cent at the end of 2019-20 (FY20), while it was 68 per cent for HCL Tech. Of the total employee base of Infosys in the US, around 63 per cent are local Americans. 

Though localisation ratio for TCS is not available, the company has said in its annual report for FY20 that around 20,000 locals had been hired by the Tata group firm in the past five years. 

This was in sync with the rising rejection rates of visa applications faced by Indian IT firms, prompting these firms to aggressively build up the employee pyramid in the US.  The data for previous years showed that the approval rate for initial H1B petitions had come down to 69 per cent in 2019, from 94 per cent in 2015. For Infosys, the approval had come down to 65.1 per cent, from 98.4 per cent in 2015.



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