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Time for Indian IT companies to relax

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Indian information technology services companies can breathe easy for the moment, with US President Donald Trump choosing not to push for legislative changes in the country’s visa programme for technology workers in his latest executive order.
Instead, on Tuesday, Trump signed the executive order named ‘Buy American and Hire American’ in which he directed the US secretary of state, attorney general, secretary of labor and secretary of homeland security “to suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid beneficiaries”.
The $150-billion Indian outsourcing industry has been bracing for drastic changes in the H-1B visa programme, the most favoured route to send Indian engineers to the US, which allowed IT services firms to keep costs low and gain an advantage over global competitors.

“Nothing is being proposed that would impact or change the fiscal 2018 H-1B lottery that is currently underway. The proposed changes are forward-looking and non-specific,” said the industry body National Association of Software and Services Companies in a statement.

The current H-1B programme, which is lottery-based, allows a maximum of 65,000 visas for the general category and a further 20,000 for people who have a US master’s degree from an accredited institution. The application cap for financial year 2018 was reached within four days of the lottery opening this year.

Indian IT companies have been accused of misusing the H-1B visa regime, which they have consistently denied. For their part, companies have been working towards a business model which is less dependent on visas. “As long as it is fair and even, a level playing field for everyone, we are committed to stay compliant,” Rajesh Gopinathan, CEO of Tata Consultancy Services told ET.