There’s a heated debate over changes in the H-1B visa program made in the Senate version of immigration reform. Employment immigration is vital in California and perhaps to a slightly lesser degree throughout the country. Several sources are criticizing the protectionism imbedded in the Senate version.
Critics say that the provision on H-1B visas doesn’t live up to America’s role as a country supporting free trade. They say that companies like IBM and Accenture have managed to rewrite the H-1B visa program to allow them to add foreign workers on a work visa while forcing Indian companies in the United States to subtract them. The Senate bill raises the cap on high-skilled H-1B visas from 85,000 to potentially 185,000. But it targets several India-based companies and prohibits them from using the additional visas for employment immigration.
The targeted companies now have a majority of United States workers on H-1B visas or the equivalent. However, the Senate change bars 50-employee strong companies, with over 50% of its U.S. workforce on H-1Bs, from applying for more visas after 2016. In the interim, they will have to pay up to $15,000 in visa fees for every additional applicant compared to the $5,000 for other companies.
Furthermore, the bill restricts outplacement so that these companies cannot place their H-1B workers on their client’s sites. But this goes against an established, popular business model for these companies and the industry. Because outplacement is an integral part of the trouble-shooting work that these firms supply to American businesses, Indian-based companies feel like they’re being driven out of the United States.
American companies in California and elsewhere will benefit from the protectionism against Indian and foreign companies built into the bill. However, they may also suffer the backlash. Another practical effect, if the provision is not modified, is that India will in turn discriminate against American companies doing business in India. This will reduce the number of contracts from the government of India going to IBM and others in favor of Indian-owned businesses. Consequently, negotiations may favor a less protectionist employment immigration provision that’s been passed by the House Judiciary Committee.
Source: businessinsider.com, “US Tech Firms Are Using A Sneaky Provision In The Immigration Bill To Screw Their Indian Competitors,” Shikha Dalmia, July 11, 2013