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More Visas For Indian Tech Workers?

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner makes comments viewed in India as a sign that that the U.S. may eventually increase the number of visas available to tech professionals.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner told his Indian counterpart that technology pros and other workers from India will play an increasingly prominent role in U.S. industry.

"I think it's very likely that over time you see a significant expansion of the role played by Indians and Indian companies in the American economy," Geithner said during bilateral talks in Delhi with Indian finance minister P. Chidambaram.

"I think we're at the early stage, even acknowledging and recognizing the huge benefits to the American economy already of the scale of Indian investment and Indian talent in the United States," said Geithner. "I think there's likely to be much more of that ahead of us, and of course we welcome that over time," said the Treasury chief, according to a transcript of the talks provided to InformationWeek by the secretary's spokesperson.

[ What IT category is most in demand these days? Read Employers Are Hot On Application Developers. ]

Geithner's comments were viewed in India as a sign that that the U.S. may eventually increase the number of visas available to tech professionals.

The U.S. caps the number of H-1B visas issued each year at 65,000, plus an additional 20,000 for holders of advanced degrees from American colleges or universities. Any move by the federal government to increase the cap would be contentious, given that the national unemployment rate is close to 8%.

An increase in the supply of H-1B and other work visas would also run counter to President Obama's pledge to protect American jobs, which has been a staple of his campaign against Republican challenger Mitt Romney. The president has frequently criticized Romney for investing in companies that outsourced work to India and other countries while he was head of venture firm Bain Capital.

Geithner was in India earlier this week to discuss bilateral cooperation between the U.S. and world's most populous democracy on a number of fronts.

"Both countries recognize the great potential benefit from working together to meet the challenges of a shared future to generate jobs, sustain growth, and help ensure macroeconomic stability," said Geithner and Chidambaram, in a joint statement. "We discussed ways we can further lower barriers to trade and investment to facilitate stronger growth and job creation."

The finance ministers said the U.S. and India need to work together to promote growth. "We are committed to make these investments to enhance competitiveness of our economies and to prepare our people and industry to compete in today's globalized world that is ever changing the way products and services are delivered," said Geithner and Chidambaram.

The U.S. is seeking more access for American companies to India's growing domestic market, while India, among other things, wants to make it easier for its nationals to work in the U.S. tech sector. The value for India is that many such workers eventually return home with valuable technology and management skills.

India recently threatened to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization over what it claims is an arbitrary reduction in visa approval rates by the State Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and increased visa processing fees.

But Geithner implied that the U.S. is not blocking visa applicants from India. "We welcome the greater participation of Indian companies and Indian talent in our economy," he said.

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User Rank: Apprentice
10/18/2012 | 12:05:22 PM
re: More Visas For Indian Tech Workers?
Why shouldn't the U.S. be able to attract and keep India's and China's top talent -- that small fraction of a percent of their huge populations? Some of those people will start or certainly help grow companies here. The U.S. should be able to showcase hard-to-fill educational and business opportunities, then choose from the world's best candidates to fill them. I want to be absolutely clear that "best" does not mean "cheapest." I'm talking about welcoming rare individuals at the near-genious level who should also have the charisma to manage (if needed) competent American and multicultural teams. What's unnaceptable is the swapping out of average-talent Americans for average-talent foreigners based on the foreigner's low cost or his/her fear of deportation.
User Rank: Apprentice
10/15/2012 | 8:08:42 PM
re: More Visas For Indian Tech Workers?
Yes, expanding H1-B visas increases profits for the 1%, who OWN the corporations that will save on labor costs.

Expanding H1-B visas increases unemployment for the American tech workers displaced by the cheap foreign labor.

The Democrats stand united with the Republicans in their commitment to more profits for the 1%. The Democrats feel that we have to accept their economic treason against American workers because the Republicans are worse.

Yet another reason I vote Green Party...
User Rank: Apprentice
10/15/2012 | 7:12:27 PM
re: More Visas For Indian Tech Workers?
I'm concerned about the vicious cycle effect of H1-B visas. Corporations will choose to fill H1-B visas because the the visa holder is typically cheaper, and the employee is captive if he/she chooses to pursue a green card. This "captivity" naturally puts a downward pressure on salaries for technology positions. The increased pool of employees also puts a downward pressure on salaries. The result is the U.S. is graduating fewer and fewer engineering, comp sci, and physics students as these fields of studies are more demanding with less long-term reward. The consequence is an increasing the demand for H1-B visas. Lather, rinse, repeat.

This administration is not, and has never been serious about jobs.
User Rank: Apprentice
10/15/2012 | 4:55:11 PM
re: More Visas For Indian Tech Workers?
Tim didn't ask me if that was an OK position. It isn't OK and we need to create an environment where more college students want to go into IT. It has to be all about American jobs! This administration is either protecting American jobs or it's outsourcing jobs, Tim you can't have it both ways.
Number 6
Number 6,
User Rank: Moderator
10/15/2012 | 2:27:03 PM
re: More Visas For Indian Tech Workers?
That's a stretch and wishful thinking to interpret Geithner's generic comments as implying more visas will be available. Even if there were more H1Bs, what makes India think they'd get them? There are now lower cost sources of educated labor in other countries.
User Rank: Ninja
10/14/2012 | 12:23:17 PM
re: More Visas For Indian Tech Workers?
Well, not all they earnings from H1Bs are siphoned off. After all, they work here and have to live here. Sure, they are unlikely to make big ticket purchases aside from a car, but as far as general day to day expenses are concerned they are not much different than any other resident. I also wonder why you restrict it to American citizens. I work in the US for over 10 years now and I am not a citizen.
It is incredibly difficult to get reliable and unbiased information as to how much tech talent is available, but I suspect that there is enough. The problem with H1Bs is that the fee is ridiculously low. If a company needs talent in order to stay in business or grow business then the visa fees need to reflect that it is indeed a hardship. So based on size and revenue of a company the fees need to be increased drastically. It needs to be preferable to hire without visa, even if that means paying relocation and sign-on bonus.
User Rank: Apprentice
10/14/2012 | 2:56:31 AM
re: More Visas For Indian Tech Workers?
Can anyone tell me how many H1B visas are currently in existence at the moment? All of the information I have seen so far only talks about the number of visas granted per year (85,000). Since very little of the salaries paid to these workers actually stays in the US, this represents a fairly large fiscal "leak" for the US.

Assuming that the visas are only good for 6 years (510,000 active visas at any given time) and the workers are being paid on the average of $50,000 (take home of $25,000), this represents about a $12 Billion drain every year. If these funds were going into the pockets of American citizens instead, it would certainly help the US economy.

And, as for the employers who claim that the talent is not available in the US, sorry, we do have it. In the 30 years I was hiring tech workers in the semiconductor industry, I was never able to find a worker who could immediately be fully productive walking in the door. I always assumed that some "finishing school" was going to be necessary to get a new worker accustomed to the way we did business. It worked and we never had a problem finding and attracting new workers.
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