Narrative about India and H1-B visas has to be changed first: Nasscom

indica News Bureau –


Indian IT industry apex body Nasscom is working hard to change the narrative that Indians grab all the H1-B visas, by presenting facts about the kind of value and capabilities Indians add to US enterprises, thus making them more competitive.

In an interview with leading business newspaper The Mint, top Nasscom officials said despite dealing with a strong feeling of protectionism that’s building up in the US, the good news is that there’s no discrimination between Indian companies and non-Indian companies at the visa level.

“If you look at the numbers in terms of job openings versus people available, one of the biggest challenges in the US today is that there’s a severe lack or severe gap in talent availability, especially for high-skill roles,” said Nasscom President Debjani Ghosh.

According to her, if you break down H1-B visas and see who takes what, one of the biggest secrets about H1-B visas is that the Indian companies account for less than 13 percent of the total H1-B visas.

“The biggest or the largest takers of H1-Bs are the largest tech companies in the US. And this has been so for a very long time because Indian companies’ visa intake in the past two years has gone down by around 40 percent and it’s growing on the other side,” Ghosh was quoted as saying.

In a recent meeting with Nisha Biswal, President of US-India Business Council (USIBC), Indian Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told her that there must be a change of narrative and emphasis must be on the value addition that Indian IT professionals and companies have made to the US.

According to Nasscom chairman Rishad Premji, dependency on visas, as an industry, has been much higher and perception is a hard thing to break.

“That’s exactly where we are putting all our efforts. We are trying to tell a very unemotional fact-based story about the kind of value and capabilities we (Indians) add to US enterprises and how they make them more competitive as opposed to the story based on sentiment,” said Premji in the interview.

“We have been at it for 12-18 months and we’ll be at it for as long as we need to help change that perception,” he added.

There’s a shortage of roughly two million people in the Information and communications technology (ICT) space in the US today and because of the unavailability of talent, companies are now looking to build talent organically, hiring from the campuses in the US.

When it comes to Indian companies being affected, Nasscom officials agreed that protectionism has added a little bit to the administrative spends.

“Broadly, it is manageable today at some level, but it’s also affecting across the border, it’s not uniquely affecting just Indian companies. I think that’s a very important thing for the Indian industry—to have a level playing field,” said Premji.

In a fresh administrative measure, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed rules that would seek petitioners to file for H-1B cap-subject visas to first electronically register with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), coupled with a reverse selection process to include US master’s or advanced degree holders within the 65,000-cap will tighten movement for Indian IT services sector.

The new rules, according to Nasscom, are fresh concerns, but perception has to be changed first.

“We are making efforts to fundamentally change the narrative and the perception that exists around these visas because the callous, misunderstood statement is that all visas go to Indian companies. Only 13 percent visas come to Indian companies and 70 percent of visas go to Indians,” said Premji.

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