February 23, 2024

US lawmaker says Trump backing H-1B reforms bill that will hurt Indian IT firms

TAP | Updated: March 28, 2017

Washington, Mar 28: A senior Republican lawmaker on Monday said his bill proposing a massive hike in the minimum salary for those employed on H-1B visas to prevent outsourcing has the backing of President Donald Trump, himself a critic of the programme.
If enacted, the bill will hurt Indian IT firms in the US and all other consultancies whose business model was based on offering same services performed by temporary foreign workers on salaries lower than their American counterparts’.
“The president is supporting it,” Darrell Issa, a House of Representatives member from California, said in response to a question about the chances of the passage and enactment of the legislation he moved jointly in January.
Aides of the congressman have said he had been in conversation about this issue also with the president’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, who favours broader and other reforms of the visa programme.
Speaking at an event on Capitol Hill hosted by Washington-based think-tank Atlantic Council, the congressman insisted his bill did not target Indian IT companies in the US like TCS, Infosys and Wipro, but conceded that they will be impacted by it, adding that they “will have to up their game”.
The Protect and Grow American Jobs Act, the legislation Issa moved jointly with Scott Peters, a Democratic lawmaker also from California, proposes to raise the minimum salary for workers on H-1B visa for high-skilled foreign workers from the “absurdly” low $60,000 at present to $100,000 a year.
The bill also proposed to do away with the masters waiver provision of the current law to ensure only the best and the brightest are given H-1Bs, which in a large number of most instances lead to permanent residency (Green Card).
Trump and some leading critics of H-1Bs programme in his administration have long been said to be considering changes in the visa programme for high-skilled foreign workers and there was even a leaked draft of an executive order they were said to have been working on.
Issa argued the salary cap of $60,000 was fixed in 1998 and a revision was long overdue to bring it up to current wages and salaries, which was help plug a “loophole” in the current law used by consulting companies to bring foreign workers on low salaries to replace local Americans and then eventually ship those jobs abroad.
He cited the example of Southern Edison California, a public utility company headquartered in his district, which drew nationwide attention in 2015 for firing a large number of employees whose jobs were contracted out to Infosys and TCS.
In response to another question, Issa echoed a widespread perception present even in the Trump administration: “Indian companies are gaming the system.”
Issa’s is one of multiple legislations introduced and re-introduced in congress this year which proposes to reform the H-1B visa programme. The Trump administration is under increasing pressure to fix whatever it can through executive action via audits and inspections, for instance and the Indian government and IT companies are largely prepared for changes.
It remains to be seen whether something be announced before April 3, when the US Citizenship and Immigration Services begins accepting applications for the 65,000 H-1Bs (annual cap, with 20,000 more for students) it will grant for 2018. PTI