Expedited H-1B visa program suspended: How this affects India's tech giants

An Indian delegation to the United States is urging the White House to commit to the H1-B visa program, which helps Indian IT firms outsource tens of thousands of tech workers to the United States each year.

Aijaz Rahi/AP/File
Infosys Technologies employees move through the headquarters during a break in Bangalore, India.

The United States' decision to temporarily suspend expediting processing of H-1B visas last week could have a significant impact not only on American tech giants, but Indian companies as well. 

On Friday, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a six-month suspension of the H-1B expedited-service option, effective April 3. The announcement came just hours after India's Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and Commerce Secretary Rita Teotia urged top Trump administration officials to view the H-1B program as a matter of trade and services, rather than immigration. A number of Indian IT firms currently use the expedited service option, which lets companies pay an extra fee to get an H-1B application processed within 15 days, to outsource tens of thousands of professionals for project work in the United States each year. 

The announcement by USCIS on Friday marked what many saw as the first move in a broader reform effort under President Trump, who in November vowed to crack down on "all abuses of visa programs that undercut the American worker." As The Christian Science Monitor reported last week: 

H-1B’s stated purpose is to attract highly educated specialists to US jobs that companies can’t fill, and while it applies to a number of industries, the majority of recipients work in technology. A 2015 USCIS report to Congress found that the previous year, 65 percent of approved petitions were for computer-related jobs. Facebook is classified as an “H-1B dependent” company, with more than 15 percent of its employees relying on the program....

The “premium processing” option, first introduced in 2001, allowed companies to pay an extra $1,225 to have their petitions reviewed in two weeks, rather than the usual two to three months. As of April 3rd, that service is dead, although USCIS says that an expedited option will remain available in special cases such in emergencies and for humanitarian reasons.  

USCIS claims the measure is necessary to work through a backlog of applications, but this explanation confuses some, who point out that faster processing was cited as a reason for the premium option in the first place.

While meeting with Trump cabinet officials and lawmakers last week, Secretary Jaishankar suggested that bringing in skilled Indian workers helps the US economy and keeps companies – and jobs – in America, a primary stated goal of the Trump administration. 

''If the Trump Administration's intention is to bring back American companies to the United States and attract more foreign investment in America, then it is important America remains competitive," said Mr. Jaishankar at a briefing, as reported by the Times of India. "So, there would actually be [a] growing need for this partnership." 

Many experts agree that in order to remain competitive, the US must take a global approach in recruiting professional talent. 

"In a globalized economy, the best and the brightest want to work in the best places – and if they're unable work in the United States, or it takes too long or is too difficult, they'll find a place in Canada or Europe or India where their talents can be appreciated," Stephen Yale-Loehr, a Cornell University immigration law professor, told NPR last month. 

This argument, Jaishankar told reporters at the end of the visit, was met with "a degree of understanding." But, he noted, he saw hope in Mr. Trump's calls for a "merit-based" immigration system while addressing a joint session of Congress for the first time last week. 

"Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, we will have so many more benefits," the president said, according to transcripts.

This kind of "points-based system" looks for such factors as education, profession, and linguistic proficiency to determine the usefulness of prospective immigrants, the Monitor reported following the speech. 

"What I would remind you that the President himself in his address to the Congress preferred a merit-based approach to the subject," Jaishankar said, as reported by the Times of India. "We heard across the board a lot of respect expressed for Indian skills in the United States." 

This report includes material from Reuters.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Expedited H-1B visa program suspended: How this affects India's tech giants
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today