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In the developed world where immigrants have become a hot political topic in almost every country, 2017 seems to have started on a bad note for Indian IT workers. The famed Indian IT workers, who have become a core part of almost all big technology firms, are now facing a new unfavourable visa re
In the developed world where immigrants have become a hot political topic in almost every country, 2017 seems to have started on a bad note for Indian IT workers. The famed Indian IT workers, who have become a core part of almost all big technology firms, are now facing a new unfavourable visa regime in several countries. The Indian programmers, with computer science and IT degrees, also face pushback in UK and Singapore.
It was long time in coming but now that politicians have become part of the debate, the pushback against Indian IT workers has gained some steam. US president Donald Trump, when he campaigned in 2015 and 2016, made it a point to emphasise again and again how foreigners were taking away the jobs from natives in the US. Similar sentiments have been shared in other countries, including in the UK and a few more European nations.
New US directive comes into effect
Now that Trump is the president in the US, lawmakers and regulatory bodies have already started putting into practice what was just a talk earlier. Lawmakers in the US have proposed several bills that they say will reform the immigration system in the US and will ensure that the H 1B visa system in not “exploited” by Indian companies. But even as the US debates those bills, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has come out with a new directive that says that people coming into the country using the H 1B visa need to be the “experts” and “skilled” workers and not just regular computer programmers.
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“Based on the current version of the Handbook, the fact that a person may be employed as a computer programmer and may use information technology skills and knowledge to help an enterprise achieve its goals in the course of his or her job is not sufficient to establish the position as a specialty occupation,” notes the DHS directive. “Thus, a petitioner may not rely solely on the Handbook to meet its burden when seeking to sponsor a beneficiary for a computer programmer position. Instead, a petitioner must provide other evidence to establish that the particular position is one in a specialty occupation.”
In other words, if you are just a computer programmer with the regular degree in computer sciences or information technology, you are no longer welcome in the US. This will hit the IT employees, who do not have advanced degrees and no MCA or regular BTech in computer science may not count hard as they will find their H 1B visa applications getting scrutinised more closely in the US.
The idea behind the move is that the H 1B visa is actually for very skilled workers who have specialised knowledge. It is believed that such workers add to the economy of the US, even if they are foreigners by bringing the knowledge and skills that are unique. In comparison, the regular computer programmers and IT workers don’t add anything to the economy. They just take way the job from a native US computer science graduate, or so believes the officials at the DHS.
In fact, the US politicians have argued that India IT workers aren’t send to US by companies like Infosys and others because they are specially skilled and knowledge. Instead, these companies get the H 1B visas and then use them to send Indian IT workers to the US cities because these workers are cheaper. They can paid lower than what these companies will have to pay to a native worker for the same work. This is the reason a few US lawmakers have even argued that the H 1B should have a clause that restricts its use for low paying jobs.
UK and Singapore too clamp down
The salary part is something that UK is taking very seriously. In November last year it issued fresh guidelines on immigration raising the amount of minimum salary for IT professionals under various categories so that companies don’t bring cheap labour from outside the UK. Instead the country wants companies to train the local workers for such positions. And it also levied a new Pounds 1000 charge per year every time company moved a foreigner to a UK based position. The charge is designed to cut down on the number of businesses taking on migrant workers and incentivise training British staff to fill those jobs,?? PTI quoted the UK Home office as saying.
In other words, if you are just a computer programmer with the regular degree in computer sciences or information technology, you are no longer welcome in the US
The new rules are now coming into effect in the UK. Singapore, meanwhile, is pushing back against the visa applications by Indian IT workers since 2014. A report by Economic Times notes that Singapore too has increased the minimum salary for migrant workers in a bid to push companies to hire more local employees. It has also asked companies to advertise for jobs for locally before those jobs are filled with Indian workers. “Since February 2016, it has been withholding decisions on work permit applications of Indian companies,” notes the ET report.
Skills needed, not coders
The idea everywhere, from the Us to the UK, seems to be that the work visas should be allowed for people with truly unique expertise. So for example people with PhD in machine learning are better candidates for the H 1B visa. The argument is that lower salaries are the reason many Indian workers end up getting the H 1B and not because they are more skilled.
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Nasscom, which counts major Indian IT firms among its members, says that new rules in the US may not affect Indian companies much. But it does seem to acknowledge that Indian IT companies need to be careful in selecting who they send to the US with a H 1B visa. “The clarifying guidance should have little impact on Nasscom members as this has been the adjudicatory practice for years and also as several of our member executives have noted recently, they are applying for visas for higher level professionals this year,” said a Nasscom spokesperson.