WASHINGTON: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has raised the issue of restrictions on H-1B visa with his US counterpart Steven Mnuchin as India fears the curb would impact the movement of Indian IT professionals to America.
During his meeting with the US Treasury Secretary, Jaitley also highlighted the contribution Indian companies and professionals are making to the US economy. President Donald Trump has signed an executive order for tightening the rules of the H-1B visa programme to stop its 'abuse' and ensure that the visas are given to the 'most- skilled or highest paid' petitioners, a decision that would impact India's USD 150 billion IT industry.
The Indian IT industry has expressed serious concerns over this as these visas are mainly used by domestic IT professionals for short-term work in America. Earlier, the finance minister raised the visa issue with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. An official statement said: "Jaitley raised the issue of H-1B visas for skilled professionals from India." Issues related to terror funding were also discussed in the meeting and the US Treasury Secretary appreciated the role of India in this regard, including Indo-US cooperation in Financial Action Task Force. These matters were discussed yesterday on the sidelines of the Spring Meetings of the World Bank and IMF.
During the discussions, the statement said Jaitley pointed out India's ambitious reform agenda which is creating new opportunities towards a deeper economic engagement between both the countries in the years ahead. "Critical economic issues like Indo-US investment initiative, infrastructure collaboration and NIIF (National Investment and Infrastructure Fund), collaboration with the US for Smart Cities Development were deliberated upon during the meeting," it added. The Indian minister also held bilateral meetings with the finance ministers of Sweden, France and Bangladesh. The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialised fields.
Indian technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year for their US operations. The US market accounts for about 60 per cent of the revenue of the Indian IT industry. Reforming the H-1B visa system was one of the major election promises of Trump. As per several US reports, a majority of the H-1B visas every year are grabbed by Indian IT professionals. India accounts for the highest pool of qualified IT professionals, whose services go a long way in making American companies globally competitive.