US H-1B Visa: The US H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ graduate level workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields such as in IT, finance, accounting, architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, medicine, etc.

On Monday, US President Donald Trump issued a proclamation to suspend the most sought-after H-1B visas along with other types of foreign work visas until the end of 2020 to protect American workers in a crucial election year.

The Reason

2020 has definitely been the worst financial year in the American history. The rise in the unemployment claims has been unprecedented.

Unemployment Claims

The immigrants constitute about 28% of the American population. But, surprisingly, the worst affected due to this pandemic were the native Americans. Trump wants to retain his presedential seat and would definitely take measures for it to happen. So, the most obvious thing to do in this situation is to boost the morale and the status quo of your citizens by instilling a sense of confidence in them. In fact, that’s what we are doing too (Atmanirbhar). To bring about this change, Trump has signed a proclamation that temporarily restricts certain foreign workers from entering and working in the US. These restrictions were applied to a lot of categories which also included the very popular H-1B visas - the gateway of Indians to the United States of America. The main idea behind this major step was to create more job opportunities for his own people and bring life back on track.

The Impact

The official data says that almost 67% of the H1B registrants are from India. Now, that is a huge number! So, of course, this decision has impacted Indians the most. For almost every Indian, who aspires to have a career in the tech industry, USA is the ultimate destination for pursuing higher studies. But with the restrictions in place, Indians who were looking to live the American dream have had to reconsider their aspirations. This has been sort of a huge blow to the Indian IT professionals as well who were eyeing the US job market.

Technology giants have openly condemned this move.

Twitter and Amazon called the order short-sighted, Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said he was disappointed and would continue to stand with immigrants. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that the order went too far. Jonathan Swain, spokesperson of Harvard, has said that this is a short-sighted policy that threatens scholarly engagement.

The overall unemployment in the US is high, but the unemployment in the computer-related jobs is as low as 2.5%. NASSCOM, National Association of Software and Service Companies, has said that the demand for high-tech skills remain strong in the US labor market even amidst this crisis. In fact, the workforce of the US tech companies comprises of tens of thousands of such immigrant employees from countries like India and China. Many big global tech companies outsource their backend database updation, service, and maintenance jobs to IT companies based in India. However, skilled employees from these organisations travel to the US on client site visits, and to work on more specialised requirements. This may not happen in times to come. Highly skilled Indian professionals bring important skill sets, bridge technology gaps and give a competitive edge to the US economy. The suspension of H-1B visas is misguided and may prove harmful to the US economy.

Indian IT industry

On the other hand, this may prove beneficial for India. The existing Indian H-1B visa holders may benefit from this policy. The suspension will limit the flow of skilled workforce into the US and the existing visa holders can benefit in the form of higher remuneration. It will also lead to more services in India as outsourcing of work may increase due to a shortage of skilled workers in the US. Moreover, Indian tech giants like TCS, Tech Mahindra, Infosys and HCL have been hiring more people locally thereby reducing their dependence on visas. Offshore revenues of tech service providers have been increasing and the COVID-19 situation is expected to increase this growth. Furthermore, India can also benefit from the skilled individuals who were all set to leave for the US. These individuals are already in high demand in the science and technology sectors in India.

Atmanirbhar Bharat may soon be a reality.