indica News Bureau-
The U.S.-India strategic relationship seems a little bitter since both are playing a tit-for-tat game. First on the tariff issue and now on the possibility of putting a cap on H-1B visas.
The Trump administration has told India it is considering capping the number of H-1B visas granted to some countries, and the cap would apply to countries that force foreign companies to store data locally, according to a media reports published Thursday.
Neither India’s Ministry of External Affairs nor the U.S. State Department has commented on the issue, and Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson India’s Ministry of External Affairs, told reporters that Indian officials “have not heard anything officially from the US government on this matter.”
The US Trade Representative or USTR did not respond to requests for comment. The State Department, however, denied reports of imminent U.S. action.
“The Trump administration has no plans to place caps on H-1B work visas for nations that force foreign companies to store data locally,” a State Department spokesperson said.
Observers question whether Trump can take executive action to put a cap on H-1B visas issued to technology professionals, with legal experts saying the administration would need Congressional approval.
“The statute just doesn’t give them any leeway to do that, and they are going to have to look elsewhere for leverage,” Lynden Melmeda former chief counsel at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, told Forbes.
Immigration attorney Cyrus Mehta told Forbes that the Trump administration faces significant legal hurdles.
“Congress would have to amend the law to award fewer H-1B visas to India,” Mehta said. “The current law does not authorize the U.S. government to discriminate against a certain country within the annual H-1B limit. It is very difficult for the administration to seek an amendment through Congress given how polarized Congress is and that the two houses are controlled by different parties,”
Alyssa Ayres, senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, said U.S. law on the issue is clear.
“Since Congress sets the cap and it is in law (last revised in 2004) I don’t get how the administration could just make this change,” Ayres said.
Rick Rossow, of the think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, told PTI that any such move by the U.S. would cause some self-inflicted harm to the U.S. itself.
Mehta also points out lowering the level of H-1B visas would violate US commitments under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) to award at least 65,000 H-1B visas annually, Forbes said.
However, William Stock, a founding member of Klasko Immigration Law Partners, told Forbes that Trump might use his executive authority to implement such a move.
Stock told Forbes that Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act allows the president to define a category of foreign nationals and suspend their entry into the country if that entry is deemed to be detrimental to U.S. interests. At the same time, he said, Section 212(f) has never been used to bar people from a country merely to gain leverage in trade negotiations.
“However, since there is a clear statutory provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act that explicitly states that the visas under the H-1B cap have to be issued regardless of country, there is clearly a strong basis to challenge the administration in federal court if they invoke 212(f) to discriminate against India,” he told Forbes.