Subramanian: Worried about any big changes in H-1B visa

RSTV Bureau
 Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian at Parliament on 31 January 2017.

Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian in Parliament on 31 January 2017.

Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian has raised concern about the possibility of Trump Administration taking any “serious actions” against the H-1B visa programme.

Subramanian’s warning comes weeks after US President Donald Trump signed an executive order to tighten the rules of the H-1B in a bid to stop foreigners from getting majority skilled jobs in the US.

Trump’s new order has the potential to impact India’s USD 150 billion IT industry, as it says that that H-1B can only be given to the “most-skilled or highest paid” petitioners.

“If there are serious actions taken it’s something that’s going to kind of worry us a lot because, remember that our exports of services are about 40 to 45 per cent of the total exports, Subramanian said in Washington last week.

“Something like 50 to 60 per cent of all our exports of services goes to the United States. So it would worry us quite a bit,” the CEA added during his visit to the Peterson Institute, a top American economic think-tank.

Subramanian also said that India was keeping a close watch on the issue.

“Anything that is going to interfere with export growth creates anxiety (in India). In the context of the United States, we’re all watching very carefully the H1-B visa situation,” he added.

During his US visit, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had also taken up the H-1B issue with the American authorities and highlighted the contribution Indian companies and professionals made to the US economy.

The Indian IT industry also expressed serious concerns as these visas are mainly used by domestic IT professionals for short-term work in the US.

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.

Not just that, 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 made by Trump during his campaign. As per several US reports, a majority of the H-1B visas every year are grabbed by Indian IT professionals.

(With inputs from PTI)