indica News Bureau-
On the second day of the US President Donald Trump’s visit to India, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi dropped subtle hints to Trump to refrain from making changes in H-1B visa program and to end the impasse over the proposed Totalization Agreement.
Modi on February 25, asked Trump to refrain from making changes in the H-1B visa program and from inconveniencing Indian professionals in the United States along with ending the impasse over Totalization Agreement, which would help nearly 500,000 Indians working in the US on non-immigrant visas avoid double taxation on social security.
“The most important foundations of this special friendship between India and America are our people-to-people relations,” Modi said as he and Trump addressed media-persons after a meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi.
Trump’s “America First” rhetoric and his vows to protect jobs for the Americans triggered apprehensions in New Delhi that some of the policies of his administration could hit India’s Information Technology industry hard. New Delhi has been concerned over the changes in visa regulations that might give a hard time to thousands of Indians working in the US.
“Be it professionals or students, Indian Diaspora in America has been the biggest contributor to this (growth of India-US relations),” Prime Minister said on Tuesday, adding: “These ambassadors of India are not only contributing to the economy of the US, but are also helping the two countries develop better relations”
Trump issued an Executive Order titled “Buy American and Hire American” on April 18, 2017, which required different arms of the US Administration to suggest reforms to the H-1B visa program.The US Administration already took some steps towards the same.
According to latest publicly available statistics of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), 168,600 initial or new H-1B petitions were processed and completed in Fiscal Year 2019, out of which 35,633 petitions accounting for about 21.1% were denied. The share of Indian nationals in total H-1B visas has, however, remained stable at around 70% between Fiscal Years 2015 and 2018.
“The H-1B visa application process has become more complex for employers worldwide, due to certain recent administrative changes in the H-1B program which have increased documentation requirements on the petitioners. These changes have impacted the processing of H-1B petitions in general, entailing a higher level of scrutiny,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha earlier this month.
New Delhi has been prodding the US Administration to refrain from making any further executive move to change the H-1B and L-1 visa program. Modi Government has also been urging US lawmakers to resist any such moves in the American Congress.
During the ‘Howdy Modi!’ event at Houston in September last year, with 50,000 Indian-Americans cheering for PM Modi, India got a opportunity to make the Trump administration appreciate the contribution of Indian-Americans in the US and their role in forwarding the bilateral relations of the two nations.
With Trump’s visit to India, Modi again stressed on the issues that the movement of highly skilled professionals from India to the US, through program such as the H-1B visa, had been a mutually beneficial partnership, which should be nurtured.
“I have requested President Trump to take forward the two sides discussion on the Tantalization Agreement on social security contribution of our professionals. It will be in mutual interest,” Modi said, much to the liking of Indian diaspora.
India and US in 2015 resumed negotiations for a Totalization Agreement, but could not make much progress.