THE HINDU: ‘U.S. visa changes only add to burden of paperwork’

Decision at odds with U.S. bid to cut red tape: Nasscom

A decision by the U.S. government to curb H-1B visas to protect the interests of American workers is at odds with the administration’s bid to cut regulation and red tape, according to Nasscom, India’s top software body.

“Nasscom is assessing the potential impact and will have more to say as we gather more information. However, initial perusal suggests that it applies to all third-party placements and not just those involving Indian or dependent companies,” according to a Nasscom statement.

“This will be an unnecessary and expensive paperwork burden that will not make much difference.”

“Nasscom member companies are in the business of providing solutions to client companies and have demonstrated time and time again in routine audits that as sponsoring employers, they clearly maintain control over and relationship with their visa holders, and that the person remains a specialty occupation worker as is routinely demonstrated by the fact that extensions are granted,” Nasscom said in the statement.

“Ultimately, this action seems to be at odds with the administration’s effort to reduce regulation and red tape.”

Indian firms such as Infosys, Wipro and Cognizant rely on H-1B visas to get third-party work done at on-shore sites. As per the new policy, companies will have to prove that their H-1B employee at a third-party site has specific and non-qualifying speculative assignments in a speciality occupation.

Now on, H-1B visas would be valid only for the period for which the employee has work at a third-party site. Earlier, it was valid for three years at a time and this move comes ahead of H-1B visa filing, which starts on April 2.

Companies would have to submit evidence of actual work assignments, technical documentation, marketing analysis, funding documents, and cost-benefit analysis. Information on specialised duties which the employee will perform, the employees’ qualifications, and who their supervisor is also needs to be filed, according to a statement on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.

“While an H-1B petition may be approved for up to three years, USCIS will, in its discretion, generally limit the approval period to the length of time demonstrated that the beneficiary will be placed in non-speculative work, and during which the petitioner will maintain the requisite employer-employee relationship.”

It added the new guidance “aligns with President Trump’s Buy American and Hire American Executive Order and the directive to protect the interests of U.S. workers.”

Infosys spokeswomen did not reply to an e-mail seeking comment. Phone calls to a Wipro spokesperson went unanswered. Mindtree, Cognizant and Tech Mahindra declined to comment.

Apurva Prasad, analyst at HDFC Securities, who tracks IT stocks, said many onsite workers who apply for H-1B visa “were task- and project-specific.”

“I do not think it will have a significant impact. Also, the bench strength in the U.S. is not high. The overall H-1B count has come down by about 50-60% over the last three years,” he said.

Sanjoy Sen, Doctoral Research Scholar, Aston Business School, U.K., said scares about the H-1B visa getting tougher for Indian IT companies had become like the “cry of the proverbial wolf.” “I have no doubt that the Indian IT companies have developed their ability to address this a core dynamic capability. This bears testimony in the fact that overseas headcount has grown faster for them than Indian headcount in recent years,” he said in an e-mailed statement.

Vivek Tandon, founder and CEO, EB5 BRICS, said the new norms would directly impact business models of Indian IT services firms.

Without a trade pact between India and the U.S., he said the best option for Indian firms was to “strongly lobby U.S. lawmakers to influence USCIS so that their policies are more business- and trade-friendly while at the same time promote the… agenda of ‘Buy American and Hire American’.

Rogelio Caceres, co-founder and chief commercial officer, LCR Capital Partners, said, “Indian IT firms could rely on the L-1A and L-1B visas. Given the Trump administration’s focus on American jobs, even the L-visa program is under scrutiny. Just to be clear, even the L visa categories are temporary in nature and are essentially work permits to go on deputation to U.S. offices of IT firms and other companies. It does not allow a holder to transfer jobs to other firms or secure permanent residency.” Alternatively, he added, the EB5 would be a good route for them to secure permanent residency in the United States of America.

Read more at:THE HINDU

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