In what could prove to be a hurdle for Indian IT companies, a key US Congressional Committee has voted in favour of passing a legislation that proposes to increase the minimum salaries of H1B visa holders from $60,000 to $90,000, reported PTI.
The Protect and Grow American Jobs Act (HR 170), which also proposes several other restrictions on H1B visa holders, a majority of whom are Indian, was passed by the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
According to the PTI report, the bill will next head to the full House. A similar version of the bill will also have to be passed by the Senate after which US President Donald Trump can sign it into law.
Following Trump's election on a protectionist platform, the US has announced stricter norms for issuing the H1B and L1 visas.
H1B visas are one of the most opted visas in the US that provide skilled workers from foreign countries work in a wide range of specialty occupations, including information technology, academic research, and accounting. It is used mostly by Indian IT professionals.
In April, the US administration began enforcing stricter bureaucratic norms for the issuance of H1B visas in order to prevent "fraud and abuse" in the programme.
"The H1B visa program should help US companies recruit highly-skilled foreign nationals when there is a shortage of qualified workers in the country. Yet, too many American workers who are as qualified, willing, and deserving to work in these fields have been ignored or unfairly disadvantaged. Protecting American workers by combating fraud in our employment-based immigration programs is a priority for USCIS," the agency had said in a statement.
If the proposed bill becomes a law, it could severely hit Indian IT companies and workers. The jump in mandated salaries is so high that companies are more likely to let go of H1B workers than to absorb the additional cost in the long term.
However, it seems like it will take some time before the future of the bill is sealed, given the differences on immigration reform that the Democratic and Republican lawmakers have, the report states.
Industry body Nasscom has said that the bill, if adopted, will harm US businesses and "stifle US innovation".
In a statement, NASSCOM president R Chandrashekhar said, "Unfortunately, this legislation is being driven by myths, not reality. US government data show very significant shortages of high skill talent around the country. The data show that the high skill visa programmes are not a major cause of US unemployment, and IT specialists working on temporary visas are not cheap labour."
(With IANS inputs)