Chances of getting a work-related visa to the United States becomes harder day by day and the row over the visa policies gets deeper every time. Indians are unfairly treated when it comes to work visas to the U.S. and according to the findings of an American think tank, India-born professionals are denied visas at higher rates than nationals of other countries, an action often done quite arbitrarily.
Indians are the new Mexicans, writes Seema Sirohi, a Washington-based journalist in Firstpost, who feels that denial rates of professionals from both the countries match. She makes an interesting comparison of American babus with their Indian counterparts and says both make a formidable match in exercise of discretionary power. Proving her point, she says the law has not changed at all but the interpretation of which has seen various versions since the recession. And this is the only way one can explain the dramatic increase in denial rates of H-1B and L-1 visas to Indian professionals.
While no apparent reason can be given for this deliberate discrimination, the only possible triggering point is the heated political climate in the country that laments over the jobs offshored and promises greater measures of protectionism.
The immigration and consular officers play a vital role in the increasing denial of H-1B and L-1B visas to Indian. The study by a non-partisan public policy organization, the National Foundation for American Policy, revealed that 2.8 percent of Indians seeking L-1B visas were denied in 2008. They came under the category of “transfer of those with specialized knowledge” within the same company. This rate went up drastically to 22.5 percent in 2009 and the study found that more Indian L-1B petitions (1640) were denied in 2009 alone than in the last 9 years combined (1341). Comparing to other countries, the denial rate remained same, at a very low range, for countries such as Britain, France, Germany and Japan. For Canadians, the Canadians rose marginally from 2 percent to 2.9 percent and for Chinese, it jumped from 2 percent in 2008 to 5.9 percent in 2009.
The most obvious reason cited is U.S. President Barack Obama’s style of governance and the ongoing campaign where he often stirs up the issue of outsourcing to gather the supper of certain unions and lobbies.
Many firms in the U.S. strongly believe that certain newly-made unwritten arbitrary standards that go beyond the statute and regulations are now applied since there is no change in the existing law, writes Sirohi. The officers, in many cases, make the process much harder, unpredictable and lengthy by demanding the applicants and their sponsoring companies to provide extra evidence and in a certain cases, they even demand the applicants to prove their ‘extraordinary ability’ for L-1B by producing a patent, says the article. Many who own patents are also denied visas.
Since 2009, the companies are not applying in as large numbers as before because of the known displeasure of the consular and immigration officers. The unpredictability of getting a visas have cause many a bad business scenarios for many Indian IT companies as their projects often get delayed due to the inability to sent qualified personnel to the U.S. The rising denials add more pain to the already hiked visa fees, which went up by $2,000 for H-1B and the law is framed in such a manner that basically hurt India IT firms, the article says.
This is a matter of real concern for India and so the issue was on the top list of Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai’s agenda when he visited the United States last week. During his address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mathai has categorically stated that it is a “non-tariff barrier” and it has become quite easy to shoot down the spirits of aspirting Indians for heavy visa fees and eventually turn them down. Over the last five years, a whooping amount of $200 million has been spend on visa fees by Indians and an estimated $30-50 million worth of visas were rejected. “According to a back of envelope calculation – Indians paid over $200 million in visa fees. Perhaps $30-50 million has been taken from young aspiring Indians working in businesses whose U.S. visas were rejected. The pink slip has become a greenback!” Mathai said. “It needs reiteration that the targets of these discriminatory actions are precisely those who have contributed intellectually to the climate of reform in India, and who have been votaries of strong India-U.S. relations,” foreign secretary was quoted as saying in PTI.
Stressing on the need to eradicate discriminatory actions, Mathai said that the Indian IT industry in the U.S. has contributed $15 billion in taxes alone in the last five years. He also quoted a NASSCOM report saying that Indian industry employs over 100,000 in the U.S. up from 20,000 six years ago, which supports 200,000 other jobs, including indirect ones, apart from enhancing the competitiveness of some the U.S. industries. On top of all these, Indian workers in U.S. pay an estimated $1 billion in social security when they are there and none of these would help then when they retire. The author also mentions that the U.S. government has time and again refused to even discuss about an agreement and dreaming about a deal to pay back social security is not worth hoping for.
- Address concerns of IT industry: India to US (ibnlive.in.com)
- Mathai meets Clinton; holds meetings at State Dept. and White House (thehindu.com)
- Indian visas – Perth, Australia (travelpod.com)