India's IT industry remains concerned over the U.S. immigration bill and needs to keep up efforts to urge the U.S. government to rethink its foreign worker policy.
Nasscom president Som Mittal said in a PTI report the Indian government as well as local businesses had been in talks with their U.S. counterparts at all possible forums to relay their sentiments about the U.S. Border Security Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act 2013. The bill was passed by the U.S. Senate but has yet to be approved by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Noting that India was "well-positioned" in the immigration bill, Mittal said: "I think it has some very good provisions like increasing visas...but this is something I will not sleep with. We still need to work and keep a watch on it.
He added that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had highlighted the issue his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama. "This issue has also been taken up with the U.S. Secretary of State and Vice President Joe Biden, and has been discussed at various congressional levels. Businesses in the U.S. are separating us... I would still lose sleep [over the issue]," Mittal said.
The Nasscom chief last year expressed "huge concerns" about the U.S. bill, which he described as discriminatory against Indian companies and created an uneven playing field. The bill, among other measures, limits the number of temporary, foreign worker visas that a company can hold.
Mittal had argued it would impact the U.S. clients of Indian IT companies, and noted that Indians working in the U.S. contributed over US$15 billion in taxes and social security in the last five years.
India's commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma also argued that the bill was "illegal" and violated World Trade Organization provisions, referring specifically to measures related to minimum salary threshold.
Nasscom last year hired influential lobbyist, public relation and law firms to argue the case for Indian IT companies with U.S. congress representatives. Indian outsourcing giants including TCS, Infosys, and Wipro depend on foreign visas to send their employees overseas to support customers in the U.S., their biggest market, which contributes 65 percent of these companies' overall revenue, according to Times of India.
The immigration bill requires companies to lower their visa-dependent workforce, potentially compelling Indian organizations to hire local talent in the U.S., which in turn could increase their overall costs and lower their margins.
On its part, the U.S. government in July accused India of protectionism and told its Indian counterpart to ease its protectionist technology purchasing policies before raising any complaints about America's new immigration bill.
In October, Infosys agreed to pay US$34 million in a settlement deal with U.S. authorities, following allegations of "systemic visa fraud and abuse" where it was alleged to have sent Indian workers to the U.S. using temporary visas, instead of the more expensive work permits. The Indian outsourcing company had disputed the charges, despite the settlement.