As Sushma Swaraj placates Indian IT firms over H1-B visa, top American official soothes concerns in US Senate

Arkadev Ghoshal
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The topic of H1-B visa has been hotly debated over the past few weeks, especially after the US did away with the premium processing of them. There were also concerns that the Donald Trump administration might cut their numbers, thereby hampering — among other corporate entities — Indian IT firms who make extensive use of them to send their employees to the US to work on projects they get from there.

Also read: US will accept H1-B visa applications for FY2018 from April 3, after temporarily banning premium visa processing

Now, those concerns seem somewhat soothed, first with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj assuring the IT firms that India was in talks with the US over the matter, and then US Labour Secretary nominee Alexander Acosta assuring the Senate that the visas would not take away jobs from Americans, thus keeping in tune with US President Donald Trump's promise to "Make America Great Again."

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Swaraj soothes tension

Swaraj has been quoted by reports as saying: "We are conveying to them [the US lawmakers] that IT professionals are not stealing jobs but contributing to the US economy and making it stronger." She also said that Indian authorities were taking up this matter with the highest levels in the US administration. 

Swaraj also said during Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha that the Trump administration alone had not been responsible for changes in the H1-B visa regime. She cited examples when the visa cap was raised from the initial 65,000 to 1.95 lakh and then reduced back to 65,000, all well before Trump came to power. 

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Acosta assures Senate

Acosta, during the hearing for his confirmation as Labour Secretary, told the US Senate: "Some Americans have seen jobs go overseas. Some Americans have seen jobs filled by foreign workers. Indeed, I've read reports that some Americans have been asked to train their foreign replacements. And some Americans see that jobs are available, but these available jobs require skills that they do not have."

He then assured them that H1-B visas were given for these jobs, where there was a lack of skilled personnel. He explained: "As I visited with Members of this Committee, I repeatedly heard that in your states the jobs are there, but the skills too often are not. In one of your states, for example, a community college was teaching welding techniques that employers no longer used."

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