Trump's America-first policy: PM Modi urges US to keep an open mind on H-1B visas

Amid the Trump Administration's move to curb H-1B visas that will impact India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday pressed the US to have a 'balanced and farsighted perspective' on the movement of skilled professionals. He made the comment while receiving a 26-member bi-partisan US Congressional delegation in New Delhi. Modi's comments reflected concern that India's $150 billion IT services industry would suffer if the United States curbs the visas, known as H-1B, it relies on to send its software experts to the United States on project work.

Welcoming the Congressional Representatives to India, he said their visit augurs a good start to bilateral exchanges following the change in the US Administration and Congress. He recalled his positive conversation with President Donald Trump and the shared commitment to further strengthen ties that have grown deeper in the last two and a half years. In this regard, he recognized Congress strong bipartisan support for the India-US partnership, a PMO statement said.

Modi shared his perspective on areas where both countries can work even more closely, including in facilitating greater people-to-people linkages that have over the years helped contribute to each other's prosperity.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AP

"In this context, the Prime Minister referred to the role of skilled Indian talent in enriching the American economy and society" and "urged developing a reflective, balanced and farsighted perspective on movement of skilled professionals," the statement said.

Soon after taking over last month, Trump had decided to overhaul the work visa programmes like the H-1B and L1, a move that will adversely hit the lifeline of Indian tech firms and professionals in the US. At present, 65,000 H-1B visas are issued by the US every year and Indians account for a major chunk in it.

The actual number of Indian nationals working in the United States under the H-1B programme is significantly higher, however, because many visas are rolled over. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who was born in India, also met Modi on Tuesday. He told the Economic Times earlier that his own career had been made possible by "an enlightened immigration policy".

Initial confidence that Asia's third-largest economy would benefit from Trump's election victory has given way to concern that his isolationist rhetoric and hostility to free trade would hurt India's hi-tech and outsourcing industry.

The sector, led by Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys Ltd and Wipro Ltd, employs 3.5 million people and is lobbying against proposed US visa curbs - including increases on salaries that H-1B visa holders must earn. Part of the delegation led by Congressman Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, met Ravi Shankar Prasad, minister in charge of electronics and IT.

Goodlatte, speaking at the meeting with Prasad, declined to answer a question on visa restrictions, saying it was up to the president to reassess his policies on immigration. A senior Indian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said India hoped to resolve the visa issue with the United States but declined to be drawn on the details.

The government supported a move by Nasscom, India's high-tech industry association, to lobby US lawmakers and companies to urge the administration not to crack down on allowing its skilled workers into the United States, the source said.

(With inputs from agencies)


Published Date: Feb 21, 2017 09:45 pm | Updated Date: Feb 22, 2017 09:13 am


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