A report by a non-profit think-tank, National Foundation for American Policy, said there was a 37% decline in the number of H-1B visas issued to seven India-based information technology companies in 2016 as compared to 2015. The report said the seven companies, as a whole, received 5,346 fewer H-1B visa application approvals last year.
The seven firms secured 9,356 approved petitions, which account for “only 0.006% of the United States workforce” in 2016. “While the threat of job loss has long been exaggerated by critics, it reaches illogical proportions when discussing fewer than 10,000 workers in an economy that employs 160 million workers nationwide,” PTI quoted the think tank as saying.
The document pegged the decline for Tata Consultancy Services Ltd at 56% with the numbers dropping from 4,674 in the 2015 fiscal year to 2,040 in 2016. Wipro’s approved applications were cut by 52% from 3,079 in 2015 to 1,475.
The report attributed the reduction to several factors, including a prioritising of non-labour intensive approaches through cloud computing and artificial intelligence. “H-1B petitions approved for initial employment in FY 2016 were filed by employers in April 2016, which means the drop in H-B visa use by these companies is not due to [President] Donald Trump’s election.”
There has been much speculation about added restrictions to the H-1B visa after Trump took over as United States president after campaigning for a protectionist policy. He had signed an executive order that introduced changes to the H-1B visa policy used by companies to hire foreigners for high-skilled jobs. The order has been dubbed the “Buy American, Hire American” order.
With regard to this move, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had pointed out that Washington had committed a certain number of H-1B visas to India, and that the Centre expected the country to honour that commitment.
The number of applications for H-1B work visas has declined for the first time in five years. In March, US had suspended the premium processing option for H-1B visas, which allowed firms to bring in highly-skilled workers in a few weeks, rather than in several months, for an additional amount.