Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today indicated that he would take up the visa issue with the US authorities during his visit to America. "These (IT industry issues) are matters of discussion with the appropriate authorities there. Once I do discuss and get an opportunity, I will let you know," he told reporters when asked whether he would take up concerns of the Indian IT sector with the US administration. Jaitley will reach Washington tomorrow to attend the Spring Meetings of IMF and World Bank as well as deliberations of G20 nations. He is slated to meet the US Treasury Secretary, among others, during his five-day visit. The Indian IT industry has expressed serious concerns over the US government moving towards tightening the rules for grant of H-1B visa, mainly used by domestic IT professionals for short-term work. Companies like Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys that send engineers on H-1B visas to the US could come under pressure in coming days as US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to replace the current lottery system for issuing work visas with a so-called merit-based approach. IT Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said there was no cause for alarm, as the review process has just started. Industry body Nasscom warned that the move could have "unintended consequences" even though it downplayed any immediate impact on IT companies this year. "No new changes are being implemented immediately ... Nothing is being proposed that would impact or change the FY18 H-1B lottery that is currently underway," Nasscom said in a statement today. Nasscom also highlighted that there is shortage of highly-skilled domestic talent in the US in IT, healthcare, education, and other fields. Industry chamber Assocham said Indian IT companies may face disruptions by way of higher costs and even some lay offs.
It estimated that as much as 86 per cent of the H-1B visas issued for IT workers go to Indians and this number is likely to come down to about 60 per cent. The H-1B visa programme is most sought-after by Indian IT firms and professionals to work on customer sites. Every year, the US grants 65,000 H-1B visas, while another 20,000 are set aside for those with US advanced degrees. Most Indian IT companies get over 60 per cent of their revenues from the North American market. Meanwhile, the Indian IT firms put a brave face to the impending changes being mooted by the US. "We continue to invest in the local communities in which we operate, including hiring local American top talent, bringing education and training to our clients to shrink the skills gap in the US, and working with policymakers to foster innovation," Infosys said in a statement. TCS, the country's largest software services company, has exuded confidence that these issues can be tackled through greater engagement. It has also said it will "tweak" its business model to continue to be in compliance with regulations. With rising protectionism across markets like the US, Singapore and now Australia, companies are beginning to adjust their business models to reduce their dependence on visas, hiring more locals instead. Australia has abolished a work visa programme -- 457 visa -- used by over 95,000 temporary foreign workers, majority of them Indians, to tackle the growing unemployment in the country. The programme will be replaced by another visa programme, with new restrictions. Expressing surprise over the Australian government's move to eliminate the 457 visa category, Nasscom said the move would not have a major impact on visas granted to Indian IT workers.
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