Monday, April 27, 2009

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US visa move raises protectionism fears

For all those seeking to find a job in the land of opportunity, protectionism may be eating into their dream and aspirations. In what could turn into a bitter ruling for overseas job seekers, two US senators have introduced a bill seeking to reform H1B visa procedures that would make it harder for companies to hire non-Americans.

Most importantly, the bill puts an onus on employers to prove that they had tried to recruit an American citizen before hiring an H-1B, which wasn't the case before. It also prevents companies who have a majority of H-1B employees on their payroll to hire any more.

The bill says that the employers must first make "good-faith attempt" to recruit a qualified American worker. It prohibits advertisements for only H-1B employees and also says that a company cannot hire more H-1B workers if 50 per cent employees are under the same category.

Moreover, it seeks the labour department to have more authority to investigate abuse.
However, Nasscom says it is surprised because it was in touch with people in the US Congress and administration.

“What really impacts us is the one that prohibits Indian companies from getting H1 and L1 visas. From our perspective this is targeting Indian companies. It’s protectionist in nature and it would prevent Indian companies to compete in the US markets,” Som Mittal, President of Nasscom said.

The Indian companies earned nearly $47 billion from the export of software and services around the globe during fiscal year 2009. The industry leaders say while they agree with stricter measures, the move should not be protectionist.

Suresh Senapaty CFO of Wipro, said, “There are two aspects—one is to remove the anomalies of the existing law to stop misuse and we completely support that. But if it is to promote protectionism policies, then it is against what all the leaders agreed in G20 including president Obama.”

Well, American President Obama has promised to talk comprehensively on immigration reform in May.

The US issued 85,000 visas under the H-1B category during the last financial year, of which Indian companies got 12,500. Now, getting one of these going ahead would become tougher, especially if such bills get passed.


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