Visa vicissitudes

By NT Bureau Published on Mar 11, 2017 10:22 AM IST

After the drive by the Trump administration in the US to weed out illegal foreign workers has come its misplaced initiative to remove foreign workers who have won permission to work legally. It is a measure of President Donald Trump's paranoia that the department of justice has filed a brief in the Washington DC court of appeals seeking a 60-day freeze in a case involving employment authorisation for H-4 visa-holders who are primarily dependent spouses of H-1B visa-holders. Thousands of Indians come in this category and ironically they had won a hard-fought permission to work in the US in February 2015 under the Obama administration. That would now come to nought as these spouses who are feeling cheated at the new direction are thrown out of jobs.

Slowly but steadily, the US is becoming a less attractive destination for foreign job-seekers, even the high-skilled ones and that may well boomerang on the US which faces a shortage of skilled technical hands. But Trump is unfazed and is proceeding on the ill-advised course in a flush of protectionism.  Indian Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has conveyed India's concerns to the US administration but so far President Trump is unmoved.

Ravi Shankar Prasad has indeed pointed out, as have India-based IT companies, that these companies are giving good value addition to US companies. In fact, he said Indian IT companies are servicing 75 per cent of Fortune 500 companies. They are making them more competitive and giving them extraordinary value addition.

He pointed out recently that they have paid around $20 billion tax revenue in the last five years and have created 4,00,000 jobs, not only in the US but other parts of the world too. Yet, the US government fails to appreciate the suicidal nature of its new policy measures that are not only hitting immigrants but also striking at the root of US national interest.

The Indian IT industry will be hoping that pressure from US tech companies will eventually prevail over Trump's political rhetoric against foreign workers. Some in India see a silver lining in this for India, which has suffered a brain drain to the US for decades. The brightest minds from India's premier engineering colleges have gone abroad to work for American companies as they did not find suitable opportunities in India.

Tech students are increasingly choosing to stay in India, the world's fastest growing large economy with an emerging startup ecosystem. The shootings of three Indian techies in the US over the past couple of weeks has accentuated the sentiment.