Opposition wants govt to make statement on H1B visa issue

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Opposition leaders on Monday demanded in Parliament that the government make a statement to address the concerns of information technology (IT) professionals working in the US.

Senior government strategists indicated that the Narendra Modi government was watching the developments on the proposed overhaul of the H1B visa regime by US President Donald Trump. They said the government was hopeful that the Trump administration would pay heed to the protests by USA Inc, particularly those regarding visa restrictions on Indian IT professionals.

Talking to reporters, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday said she would soon hold a meeting with IT industry representatives, including the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom). “There are several nuances to that (visa issue). So I would not rush to give a view on it. Yes, there is going to be an impact…. We will be holding a meeting with Nasscom and industries which have a significant presence in the US, talking to them about how they are working in this environment, what are their strategies.” The meeting, she added, would be convened when Parliament goes for recess after February 9.

Industry body Nasscom had said it would take a delegation of senior executives to Washington DC later this month to reach out to the new US administration as well as senators on concerns around the clampdown on visas and the flow of skilled manpower between the two nations. The delegation will highlight and share information with the new US administration on direct jobs being created by Indian IT companies in the US, and the contribution of Indian IT firms in making the US economy competitive.

In both Houses of Parliament, Opposition leaders raised the issue of the anxiety prevailing among Indian professionals in the US. Congress leader Anand Sharma said in the Rajya Sabha said 300,000 Indians have been affected by the proposed changes in the visa regime. He said the government must make a statement on the floor of the House and also take efforts to sensitise the Trump administration on the issue.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) chief Sitaram Yechury said the immigration restrictions were a cause of worry not just to IT professionals. He said 500,000 Indian youths working in the US were living in difficult conditions there has not been a word from the government. Trinamool Congress’ Derek O’Brien and others of his party asked the government to “stand with IT professionals” in their hour of need, “ensure that Indian IT industry is not affected” and secure the interests of Indian IT firms globally.

According to a senior government strategist, the government has heard from the US IT industry that they would try to sensitise the Trump administration about the need for their businesses to employ overseas workers. Recently, a top honcho of a US-based IT major met a senior minister and indicated the industry’s resolve to resist immigration restrictions.

Nasscom said the Bill has just been introduced and would need to go through several legislative discussions at the US Congress and Senate before it can become law. “The Lofgren Bill contains provisions that may prove challenging for the Indian IT sector and will also leave loopholes that will nullify the objective of saving American jobs.” Nasscom said it would continue to engage with the US administration and legislators both directly and through the Government of India.

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