Indian Tech Companies Get Jittery About Trump’s New Visa Cuts Plan

File picture of Indian tech workers. Credit: PTI

File picture of Indian tech workers. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: With a proposed Executive order and three bills introduced in US Congress, India has conveyed New Delhi’s “interests and concerns” to Washington, even as it braces for a cut in the number of H1B visas for foreign technology workers.

US media has reported that the executive order, which will take the axe to visas for foreign workers, is the next in line. Three bills were introduced in the US congress in the last three weeks which also seek to do the same – but Indian officials are more sanguine about the congressional development as the legislative process is much more slower.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the ministry of external affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, “India’s interests and concerns have been conveyed both to the US Administration and the US Congress at senior levels”.

This came after the White House spokesperson Sean Spicer confirmed on Monday that the draft executive order was imminent.

“I think with respect to H1Bs and other visa is part of a larger immigration reform effort that the President will continue to talk about through executive order and through working with Congress,” Spicer told reporters.

He added that there was an “overall need” to look at all visa programs. “You’ll see both through executive action and through comprehensive measures a way to address immigration as a whole and the visa programme,” he added. According to leaks in the US media, the draft executive order will take aim at a wide swathe of visas, including H1B visas under which thousands of Indian techies move to the US for work.

“Visa programs for foreign workers … should be administered in a manner that protects the civil rights of American workers and current lawful residents, and that prioritizes the protection of American workers — our forgotten working people — and the jobs they hold,” state the draft order, as per Bloomberg.

The draft proposal, however, does not have any specific new rules for H1B visas, but it calls for a report within 90 days on how to make the program more efficient. Currently, H-1B visas are doled out by lottery and are capped at 65,000 a year.

US Senators and Congressmen have also introduced three bills, which seek to make changes to the H-1B program so that IT firms find it more difficult to hire foreign workers.

Indian IT stocks on Tuesday reacted sharply to these new reports. The Tech Mahindra share lost 9.5 percent, Infosys 4.5 percent, TCS 5.5 percent and Wipro, which saw its largest fall of 4.1 percent in nine months. The firms recovered and erased a bit of their losses. At the end of the day, Infosys closed down 2.01%, TCS shares fell by 4.47%, Tech Mahindra fell by 4.23%, and Wipro Ltd by 1.62%.

Silicon valley IT firms had been lined up against Donald Trump during the presidential campaign, except for Palantir’s Peter Thiel. They had also strongly criticised Trump’s recent presidential executive order which stops all refugee admissions for 90 days and reviews intake of foreign nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries. Trump is unlikely to hesitate in signing the executive order, which would buttress his slogan of “Buy American, Hire American”.

In a statement, Nasscom president and head of Cognizant India, R Chandrasekhar said, “Inspections and investigations in the past have shown no cases of wrongdoing by Indian IT services companies, which have always been fully compliant with the law”. He said that the industry is open to any kind of checks in the system, but they should not cause any hindrance to the smooth operation of companies. “We continue to hold that skilled immigration is what benefits the global economy, and diversity and inclusion have actually made Silicon Valley the magnet for global talent,” he said.

India’s chief economic advisor, Arvind Subramanian said that the medium-term political outlook for globalisation and in particular for the world’s “political carrying capacity for globalisation” may have changed in the wake of recent developments. “In the short run a strong dollar and declining competitiveness might exacerbate the lure of protectionist policies,” he said.