The United States has conveyed to India that there is no significant change in the H-1B visa regime, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is reported to have said. Sitharaman said in Lok Sabha that India is articulating its concerns regarding the visa policy vigorously with the new administration in the US.
However, the Minister said, there is no significant change in the H-1B visa regime. US President Donald Trump is said to be preparing to issue executive orders on H-1B visas as part of larger immigration reform efforts, which could impact technology companies such as Infosys, Wipro and TCS that use these visas to send Indian professionals to the US. H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that enables the visa holder to work in a “specialty occupation, in the US for three years, with extensions possible in most cases.
“The fear, at least for 2017, is not proved to be correct. They (US authorities) are saying their current priority is to deal with the illegal immigrants,” she said during Question Hour. Sitharaman said the issue was also taken up by the Commerce Minister recently with visiting Congressional delegation led by Bob Goodlatte and during the visit of Commerce Secretary and Foreign Secretary to the US during first week of March 2017.
The Minister said India’s concerns on visa issues were articulated during the Strategic and Commerce Dialogue 2016 and Trade Policy Forum 2016 held in October, 2016. She said India had decided to continue their engagement on visa issues and reiterated their shared resolve to facilitate the movement of professionals.
Sitharaman said a number of industry bodies have raised concerns on visa policies of the US and these concerns were conveyed to the US authorities by the government. The Minister said the US monitors policies of 73 countries and India may be one of them. “But we don’t recognise any monitoring by any countries. No unilateral policing is acceptable for India,” she said.
Started under President George H Bush, who signed The Immigration Act, 1990, increasing legal immigration by 40%, the total number of years of visa stay allowed was six years including a three year extension. The H-1B cap was 65,000 and the base filing fees was $365. The American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act was enacted during the presidency of Bill Clinton. Under the Act, the number of H-1B visas allotted nearly doubled from 65,000 to 115,000 for the fiscal years 1999 and 2000 respectively.
An amount of $500 was added to the base filing fees of $365 to fund the scholarship and training program. In 2000, the AC21 Act made it easy for H-1B visa holders to change company
American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act was enacted to change rules related to H-1B portability and increase the annual cap quota, allowing them to change employers in certain situations. This Act, under Clinton, raised the cap to 195,000 for fiscal years 2001, 2002 and 2003 respectively.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act came into effect under George W Bush. It reduced the annual H-1B cap to 65,000 and introduced a separate pool of 20,000 H-1B visas under the H-1B Advanced Degree Exemption for people having a US Master’s degree. It introduced anti-fraud fees of $500.
The H-1B Visa Reforms Act came under President Barack Obama in the year 2013, and it aimed to cut down the inconsistencies in the H-1B visa program with a focus to prevent misuse and fraud, as well as it doubled H-1B visa fee to $4,000 for companies having more than 50 employees and with more than 50% of them being H-1B or L-1 visa employees.