The latest immigration reform of President Barack Obama, which was revealed last Thursday, brought little hope for the Information Technology Outsourcing industry in India. High-skilled techies in India were eagerly waiting for the US President to increase H- 1Bs or the number of skilled-workers visa. However, Obama bypassed the Congress in order to protect over a million illegal immigrants from deportation. The reform also included minor benefits for organizations with overseas workers.
The President, in his address to the nation, said that it would now be easier and faster for entrepreneurs, graduates and high-skilled immigrates to stay in the U.S and contribute to its economy. This has brought a cloud over India’s outsourcing firms who were waiting for the H-1B visas to increase, so they could send across more Indian engineers and programmers to meet the needs of their customers in the U.S.
This is indeed a big hit to Indian software companies, considering the fact that Indian technology giants (Wipro, TCS and Infosys) have been sending thousands of skilled workers year after year.
The reforms bill, which was first introduced last year, was initially supposed to triple the H-1B visas to 180,000 a year, but was thwarted after several lawmakers felt that such a change would result in an influx of illegal immigrates. Based on this fact, market watchers were sure that Obama would not drastically increase the number of H-1B visas issued annually.
As per the actions stated in the bill, a new visa program will be included to expand the immigration options for foreign entrepreneurs who meet the required criteria. The amount of time for foreign students who stay in the U.S for work after graduation, will also be extended. Other changes include spouses of H-1B visa holders to be able to work in the U.S, thereby minimizing the time taken to issue green cards.
A large majority of the Indian outsourcing industry welcomed the reform bill and felt that it would get rid of the operational bottlenecks that come with doing business in the U.S and increasing the number of Indian techies into the country.
When asked to comment on the reform bill, Gagan Sabharwal, director for trade and development at the National Association of Software and Services Companies (The main software trade body in India) said “Most of these measures rank positive, but none of them are dramatic in nature”. Many Indian companies felt that the Obama’s actions were helpful, but not what they expected.
With President Obama now focusing on low-skilled workers, many hope that more attention will be given to high-skilled workers in the next year, thereby paving a way for skilled Indian techies to be become permanent residents in the U.S.
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