Indian IT industry furious about steep rise in US visa fees

by Ray Clancy on August 24, 2010


India’s flagship outsourcing IT industry is still unhappy about a steep rises in US work visas fees, some of which will almost double.

They are furious that they are effectively paying for tighter security on the Mexican border as the US administration spends more money there.

‘The US is giving a very strong signal foreigners are not welcome. I believe this is discrimination,’ said Som Mittal, president of the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), which represents India’s leading software exporters.

The row comes ahead of a visit by President Barack Obama later this year and is a result of the extra money from visa fees being used to pay for the US government’s plans to boost security along its border with Mexico to crack down on illegal immigration and drug smuggling.

‘While the need to secure greater funding for strengthened security along the US-Mexico border is well understandable, illegal immigration issues are not linked to the temporary movement of skilled professionals,’ said Chandrajit Banerjee, head of leading business body the Confederation of Indian Industry.

He believes it flies in the face of a strategic partnership launched in April to promote economic ties and described the decision to increase fees as ‘a protectionist pushback’ that does not help the partnership.

The US legislation affects those skilled workers brought in by companies whose employees are more than 50% foreign, a move that largely affects India’s IT and outsourcing industries.

US high tech firms such as Microsoft, which bring skilled immigrants into the country on the same visas will not be hit as the vast majority of their workforce is American.

NASSCOM says the measures will boost annual US visa costs for the outsourcing industry by $200 to $250 million annually.

More than half of the world’s top 500 companies outsource work to India which has become the world’s back office where Western firms have set up call centres and number-crunching and software development outlets to cut costs. But the $50 billion revenue industry also flies employees each year to the US to work at their clients’ locations as on site technicians and engineers.

Under the law, the fees for non-immigrant H1B and L visas go up by $2,000 for firms with more than a 50% non-American workforce. The current fee is $2,500. Critics also claim that it will make the Indian IT industry less competitive in the global market.

‘This will have a negative impact on Indian companies that are investing in the US, employing US talent and are overall aiding the US economic recovery,’ added Nasscom vice president Ameet Nivsarker. The organisation reckons that Indian companies, with the large majority IT companies, apply for 50,000 visas every year to bring in skilled workers through the H-1B and L-1 streams, besides renewal of old visas.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

arizonian September 22, 2010 at 10:02 am

Believe me, the US isn’t spending any more money on the Mexican border at all. But airport security is rediculous.

And no offense, but we actually have IT people here looking for jobs because some high and mighty Indian won’t hire them. I wish immigrants whether naturalizing or just working, would show some kind of respect for the people who we’re born here once in a while at least. We need to be able to find jobs in our own country. You want us to come and take yours like you take ours?

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undrkvabrtha February 16, 2011 at 11:15 pm

Dear Arizonian,

I'm not sure what you mean by 'IT people'. My company employes people based on the 'equal opportunity' principle. I hire people, black, white, brown, yellow or pink – depending on what they can do.

I'm of Indian origin and hold multiple citizenships – 4 to be precise. I find it hard to believe that IT people are not being hired by 'high and mighty' Indians.

In my experience, there're a lot of people who're unemployed, and decide to change their field of work. They move from being an electrician or plumber or brick-layer or office-clerk to being an 'IT person'. How? well, disadvantaged sections of USA's society get to attend courses designed to re-skill them.

Completing a government-subsidized diploma while on the Government's Job Help program or whatever does not make anyone 'IT people'.

It takes years of theoretical study at a postgraduate level to build a proper Computer Science, IS, IT or ICT professional. Of course, there're always exceptions, and I'm sure none of the exceptions are jobless at the moment.

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