India Tech Titans to Plead Visas Case Before Trump Officials

  • CEOs of biggest IT firms will head to Washington this month
  • Industry body Nasscom counting on Indian government support

Deep Dive: H1-B Visa Fears Send Indian IT Tumbling

India’s largest technology companies plan a trip to Washington this month to argue against President Donald Trump’s envisioned tightening of visa programs that Silicon Valley and their own industry rely on to attract talent.

The chief executives of the country’s biggest IT services companies will meet with administration officials and lawmakers from Feb. 20 to try and dissuade Trump’s team from raising requirements under the H-1B visa program, said R Chandrashekhar, the president of industry group Nasscom. India’s largest IT services corporations, including Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys Ltd., depend on the system to insert foreign talent on the ground to work with U.S. clients.

Trump’s administration is drafting an executive order aimed at overhauling the work-visa programs used to hire tens of thousands of employees each year, while Congress develops its own proposals. Restrictions could transform the way American companies like Apple Inc. and Indian corporations such as Wipro Ltd. recruit, to offset a dearth of homegrown U.S. engineering talent. Businesses would have to try to hire American first and if they opt for foreign workers, priority would be given to the most highly paid -- making hiring more expensive.

“We want to put across to the new administration and the lawmakers what would be lost by America closing those doors,” said Chandrashekhar, who will join the delegation on a four-day visit to the U.S. capital. Nasscom has already shared its concerns with its own government. “We have talked to the government which will do what it needs to do, but we are parallelly pursuing our own course of action.”

It’s not clear how much force an executive order would carry if it’s signed by the president. Congress is also working on visa reforms and the parties will have to cooperate to pass new laws. Zoe Lofgren, a Democratic congresswoman from California, introduced a bill last week to tighten requirements for the H-1B work visa program.

News of the draft executive order has sent Indian IT stocks reeling this week and fueled a sharp rise in inquiries to local placement firms from current H-1B visa holders exploring options back home. Senior executives are putting together contingency plans in the event they can’t get enough workers into the U.S. to work with their clients, which include many of America’s top banks and corporations. The topic may well come up during a conversation between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Trump slated for June, Chandrashekhar said.

Nasscom encompasses nearly 2,400 technology companies across the country but Chandrashekhar said the CEO delegation will comprise mainly chief executives of companies that are the biggest users of H-1B visas. He declined to name them but data shows the heaviest employers include Tata Consultancy, Infosys, Wipro, HCL Technologies, Tech Mahindra and Mindtree. Infosys, Wipro and TCS didn’t respond to requests for comment.

“We want to help the officials and lawmakers understand the gains for the U.S. economy and the benefits to Americans because of businesses using Indian IT services,” said Chandrashekhar. “It is not merely what appears on the surface, the reality is far more complex than making changes to the 85,000 H-1B visa program.”

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