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Will Biden promote 'melting pot' culture through H-1B visa relaxation?

H1B visa programme remains a critical factor for driving growth of over $175-billion worth Indian IT industry.

Will Biden promote melting pot culture through H-1B visa relaxation?

Will Biden promote ‘melting pot’ culture through H-1B visa relaxation?

H1B visa programme remains a critical factor for driving growth of over $175-billion worth Indian IT industry. This also plays a significant role in driving innovations in US-based multi-national giants such as Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon among others. Ironically, the American government under the Trump administration has created a lot of administrative roadblocks in the last 18-24 months, making it increasingly difficult for Indian IT professionals to receive these kinds of temporary visas to work in the US. With the undue delay in the processing of visa applications, the US government under Trump has also increased fees for applying for these work visas.

To check the unemployment rates in the North American nation, Trump has also banned the entry of foreign workers under H-1B and L-1 visa till December of this year. The US administration is now proposing to fix minimum wages for the foreign workers, which if implemented will force Indian IT firms to cough up higher remuneration for their employees. Though drastic legislative changes such as 'no work visa' for spouses of H-1B visa holders and wage ceiling for non-immigrant workers are yet to be approved, such negativity towards foreign talent has begun to hurt innovations in the global technology industry.

These stringent measures have also started to reflect in numbers. The share of Indian IT professionals availing of the H-1B visa programme, which has an annual cap of 65,000, has been reducing over the years. According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the share of Indian companies among the top-10 visa recipients has dropped from 51 per cent to 24 per cent during the 2016-19 periods. Even the belief that the Indian IT industry is cornered about a major share of H-1B visas is also wrong. For instance, Amazon received 3,026 initial approvals for the H1B visa last fiscal, while Google got initial approvals for 2,678 visas. During this period, Microsoft received 1,701 applications, while it was 1,518 for Facebook. In comparison to this, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) had received 1,733 approvals and Infosys got 757.

Amid these difficulties, the new US President-elect Joe Biden is expected to ease some of these regulations. Being part of the Obama administration earlier, Biden always has a lenient view towards allowing high-skilled individuals to work in the US. His presidential bid also seems to be supportive of his earlier stance. A policy document of his campaign states that an immigration system that crowds out high-skilled workers in favour of only entry-level wages and skills threatens American innovation. Though it's early days to gauge the direction of his policy decisions, relaxations of some kind are highly expected. The US is traditionally known as a 'melting pot' society, which has emerged as a superpower by promoting immigration, and Biden is expected to be a worthy successor to this tradition.

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