US H-1B tightening is an opportunity for India’s skilled talent

US H-1B tightening is an opportunity for India’s skilled talent

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US H-1B tightening is an opportunity for India’s skilled talent

The Trump administration move to make it more difficult for entry-level computer programmers to use the H-1B visa is an opportunity for India to send its more talented professionals on these visas.

Already, entry-level programmers have become a small part of the total number of applicants for H-1Bs. Official US data shows that computer programmers certified as eligible for H-1B in 2014 and 2015 were only about 12% of the total number of certified applicants in those years. And within the computer programmers’ category, about 41% were for positions at the lowest wage level, according to news agency Bloomberg. The lowest wage level is defined as jobs requiring people to perform routine tasks that require them to exercise little judgment on their own.

IT industry body Nasscom said on Tuesday that several of its member executives had noted recently that they are applying for visas for higher level professionals this year. This would suggest that the numbers of lower-level computer programmers would drop even further. In the computer space itself, there are a number of higher level positions that include system analysts, software developers, system managers, and network and computer systems administrators. And India has excellent talent in these spaces.

Indian IT firms are the biggest users of H-1B, a non-immigrant visa that allows them to move employees to the US for long periods to work on customer projects. On March 31, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a new memorandum that would require companies applying for H-1B visas for computer programming positions to submit additional evidence showing that the jobs are complex or specialized and require professional degrees.

This follows complaints over the past few years from IT professionals in the US about how they were displaced by Indian IT staff, in some cases after being compelled to train the latter.

Experts believe that the memo is aimed against India-based IT consulting & services firms as it focuses on computer programmers. Cyrus D Mehta, managing attorney and founder of New York-based law firm Cyrus D Mehta & Associates, said employers filing H-1B petitions on behalf of computer programmers have to be doubly careful now about designating an employee as an entry level worker. He said if they are designated as entry level workers, companies “will have to work harder than usual in convincing the US authorities that the position still qualifies for an H-1B visa.” he said.

Michael Schutzler, CEO of Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA), said the policy memo rescinds a former guidance on issuing an H-1B, and noted that the specific change is that having a two-year computer science degree is no longer sufficient to be declared sufficient.

Nasscom said the H-1B visa system exists specifically because of the persistent shortage of highly-skilled domestic IT talent in the US, and said its member companies have and will continue to provide skilled talent and solutions to fill that gap and keep US companies competitive globally.