Solving U.S. H-1B Reform Top For Indian IT Group

Nasscom president Som Mittal hopes open discussions will prevent abuse and fraud in the programs predominately used to bring foreign IT workers into the U.S.
While Indian companies are often the focus in the debate about H-1B and L-1 reforms, Mittal said typically, "India only gets 11%, 12% of the H-1B visas" that are granted annually by the United States.

Last fiscal year, Indian companies were granted about 12,000 of the total 85,000 visas that were allotted under the current U.S. cap, which includes 65,000 general H-1B visas and 20,000 exemptions for aliens who received advanced degrees from U.S. universities.

So far this year, the U.S. hasn't hit the cap. In April, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting H-1B visa petitions for fiscal 2010, which begins Oct. 1. In recent years, USCIS received within days enough petitions to hit the cap.

However, as of Monday, USCIS had only received 45,500 petitions for the 65,000 general H-1B visas. Also, although USCIS has received about 20,000 advanced degree petitions for H-1Bs, the agency is continuing to accept those applications because not all of them are likely to be approved.

The fact that there are still H-1B visas available during a weak economy indicates to Mittal that the program is "a supply and demand issue" and "artificial caps encourage more fraud, especially among smaller companies."

There are many proposals in the Durbin-Grassley bill that Mittal opposes, however "a killer provision" is one banning companies from laying off U.S. employees 180 days before or after they hire H-1B workers. Such a rule provides little flexibility for companies to respond to unforeseen turns in the economy or business conditions.

While Mittal also opposes other provisions in the bill, he said he prefers the idea of these proposals being publicly debated by Congress, "not slipped into other appropriation bills without debate."

That was the case when Congress passed in February the $787 billion federal stimulus package, which includes provisions that make it more difficult for financial services companies receiving U.S. bailout money to hire H-1B workers for two years.

"It's my viewpoint that everyone is interested in looking at these provisions in a more comprehensive bill" to reform immigration.

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