Singapores Visa Clampdown Worry Indian Techies -
Singapores Visa Clampdown Worry Indian Techies
Posted 04 Apr 2017 03:06 PM


India's tech workers received a double whammy of bad news this week after US policy makers issued a notice which said that being a simple computer programmer would no longer qualify as a 'specialist profession', - a must to get an H-1B visa. Issued just one business day before US Immigration authorities started accepting H-1B visa petitions, the new rules aims to make it difficult to replace US employees with foreign workers through an H-1B visa. Meanwhile closer home, IT industry body Nasscom has said the clampdown on tech visas by Singapore has cut down the number of Indian techies to under 10,000 in the South East Asian nation and could hurt the ability of players to chase future deals. Following Singapore's directive, the Indian government has decided to suspend its review of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement with Singapore, even as the trade pact is set to expand the number of goods from Singapore that will attract lower import duties.

Here are 10 key highlights:

- Over the weekend, US Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a notice which said that being a simple computer programmer would no longer qualify for an H-1B visa, a ruling which could affect the chances of thousands of Indian tech workers hoping to get the visa in 2018.

- Indians tech workers - who account for a majority of the 65,000 H-1B visas issued every year - will no longer be able to apply for 'entry-level jobs' according to the notice.

- The circular which affects applications for the H-1B lottery for 2018 financial year, reverses guidelines issued in December 2000 which had classified computer programming as a specialist profession

- US Immigration authorities have argued that the earlier policies on issue of H-1B visas were obsolete. "The fact that a person may be employed as a computer programmer and may use information technology skills and knowledge to help an enterprise achieve its goals in the course of his or her job is not sufficient to establish the position as a specialty occupation," a memorandum said.

- The new rules comes after Nasscom, India's tech industry body, along with the Indian government lobbied US lawmakers and companies to urge the administration not to crack down on allowing its skilled workers into the United States.

- In February, US policy makers introduced a bill which among other things, called for more than doubling the minimum salary of H-1B visa holders to $130,000. The bill was aimed at making it harder for companies like Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, Infosys Ltd and Wipro Ltd and other to replace US employees with foreign workers.

- Indian tech companies have repeatedly claimed that they use H-1B visas to recruit top talent. However, skeptics say that a majority of these visas are awarded to outsourcing firms, which then use the visas to fill lower-level information technology jobs.

- Meanwhile in Singapore, a clampdown on Indian tech workers has shrunk the base of Indian techies to under 10,000 in the South East Asian nation.

- Though US and Europe account for over 80 percent of India's IT exports, all major Indian tech companies have setup offices in Singapore as a base to serve clients in the region and tap into the fast-growing Asian markets.

- Nasscom President R. Chandrasekhar has said that the transfer of Indian tech workers to Singapore has 'reduced to a trickle' and is inadequate to drive growth.

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