NEW DELHI: Donald Trump has listed immigration reform among executive actions he plans on his first day in office. Ahead of his swearing-in, two American lawmakers have introduced a bill that seeks to change the H-1B and L-1 visa programmes. Here’s how the bill could sting Indian workers:
Hike in visa cost
The US has already sharply hiked H-1B and L-1 visa costs in January 2016 — from $2,000, to $6,000 for H-1B and $4,500 for L-1 visas — for firms that employed 50 or more workers in US, with more than 50% of them employed on H-1B or L-1 visas.
Bid to change eligibility criteria
The ‘Protect and Grow American Jobs Act’ proposes important changes to the eligibility requirements for H-1B visa exemptions:
1. The bill seeks to remove the Master’s degree exemption for H-1B applicants, which allows them to skip additional paperwork if they have an equivalent of a Master’s or higher degree. A majority of Indian IT professionals who go to US generally have a Master’s degree, which gives them an edge over applicants of other countries.
2. The bill attempts to bar companies that have over 50 employees and 50% of them on H-1B or L1 visas (temporary transfer of foreign workers to US), from hiring more.
3. The bill proposes to raise the minimum salary of H-1B visa to $100,000 per annum (currently it is $60,000 per annum). The hike in minimum salary of an H-1B visa worker to $100,000 per annum would make hiring Indian IT professionals less attractive and may push companies to go for US workers.
Impact on Indian job-seekers
The bill says you can bring in foreign workers as long as you pay them well. So Indians who get a job in the US should get a decent package. The new measures, if passed, could force more people to try visas under other routes such as L1. The L1 visa is not subject to numerical or salary restrictions, but the bill proposes setting wage requirements for it too.
The Indian IT industry believes the US does not have enough IT talent and needs to bring in workers from India on the work permit. Moreover, it’s not a one-way traffic. Indian IT companies also create jobs in US and contribute to the US economy.