US H-1B visa reform bill can end Indian IT dreams
The criticism against the H-1B was two-fold: denying jobs to local (American) talent when hiring freshers etc and outsourcing, resulting in shutting down of divisions employing US personnel.
There’s this song by the Doors which encapsulates the entire breathless anxiety, fear and tragedy running through every techie and his multi-million dollar-earning employer upon hearing the news that a new US H-1B visa reform bill has been unleashed against them: The End.
Tata Consultancy Services, India’s topmost earner in the field, made $ 16.54 billion last year. TCS revenue commanded the lion’s share in the beleaguered Tata Group’s earnings. This is closely followed by Infosys at $ 10.61 billion and the list is completed by Wipro, HCL and Tech Mahindra, the former Satyam. As expected, their stocks fell.
The H-1B visa was introduced in 1990 to improve US companies’ performance in specialty occupations. While this is a non-immigrant visa, it allows the possibility of permanent residence via the green card. The criticism against the H-1B was two-fold: denying jobs to local (American) talent when hiring freshers etc and outsourcing, resulting in shutting down of divisions employing US personnel. Indian companies made their stash by hiring Indian engineers at slightly less than what the US engineers would get or even less. With the cost low, American companies were happy hiring Indian talent. They didn’t care about Americans losing jobs, after all capitalism dude!
The proposed law, the High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017, introduced by California Congressman Zoe Lofgren uses the same wage logic to curb H-1Bs. It has introduced a minimum wage for H-1B which is around $132000, slightly more than double that of the current $60,000 something. It does allow the Indian IT firms to send their senior managers to the US but doubt that they will. In all the noise over the H-1B, it has been conveniently overlooked that the proposed law does away with the per country cap. If need be, lots of Indians can still go to the US under the H-1B but it may not necessarily be for writing code or managing systems.
The dollar dreams that every boy and girl in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala saw from the early-1990s revolved around getting into engineering, earn the degree and fast whichever day to please whichever god to crack the campus interview. And then fly to New Jersey but that flight has now taken a wrong turn.