In a White House briefing last week, the US accused India’s top IT firms like TCS and Infosys for unfairly garnering a large share of H1-B visas by putting extra tickets in the lottery system. According to a report by the Economic Times, the Trump administration wants to replace this system of H1-B visas with a more merit-based immigration policy.
A Trump administration official said that a small number of huge outsourcing firms often flood the system with applicants, upping their chances of success in the lottery draw.
As per the transcript of the briefing posted on the White House website, a senior official said, “You may know their names well, but like the top recipients of the H-1B visa are companies like Tata, Infosys, Cognizant -- they will apply for a very large number of visas, more than they get, by putting extra tickets in the lottery raffle, if you will, and then they’ll get the lion’s share of visas. Which is very different than I think how most people think of the H1B program…they would think of it as being for skilled domestic work, rather than contract work.”
And the reason why Indian companies like TCS, Infosys and Cognizant were singled out is that these three companies were the top three recipients of H-1B visas.
“And those three companies are companies that have an average wage for H1B visas between $60,000 and $65,000. By contrast, the median Silicon Valley software engineer’s wage is probably around $150,000. So it just illustrates the point that I was walking you through about how H1B visas are awarded -- if you have contracting firms that are not skills employers, that oftentimes use workers for entry-level positions, and they capture the lion’s share of H1B visas. And that's all public record,” the official added.
The official said that H-1B visas presently are awarded through random lottery with around 80% of them being paid less than the median wage in their fields. Only 5-6% of H-1B workers come in the highest wage tier recognized by the Department of Labour.
According to ET, the official said that workers are often brought in well below market rates to replace America workers, again, sort of violating the principle of the programme, which is to bring in skilled labour.
He called for this current system that awards visas without regard for skill or wage to be changed to a skill-based awarding, adding that this would make it extremely difficult to use the visa to replace or undercut American workers.
Image: Mark Hillary