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US suspending work visas to have limited impact, say sources

New Delhi, Jun 23 (PTI) US President Donald Trump temporarily suspending entry of foreign workers such as IT professionals into the US will have a limited impact on India with a maximum of 30,000 visas being at stake during the six-month restriction period, sources said on Tuesday.

Indian government, they said, will take all steps to reinstate the visas to ensure movement of skilled workforce across the globe.

Trump issued a presidential proclamation to block the entry of foreign workers for the rest of the year on H-1B visas for skilled employees, and L visas, for managers and specialized workers being transferred within a company.

Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro and Tech Mahindra are among the top companies that used the H-1B programme to send IT professionals to the US to service clients.

The US issues around 85,000 H-1B visas every year, and on an average, Indian professionals get about 60,000 of these.

The sources said that since the restriction is for six months, the number of visas that would be impacted in the best case would be 30,000.

'However, in view of the rising unemployment and weak economic conditions due to coronavirus, the US would have issued much lesser visas (say around 5,000-10,000) and due to this, proclamation would have limited effect. However, the government will take all steps required to reinstate the visas and ensure mobility of labour across the world,' they added.

One of the sources said currently, there are more than 3 lakh Indian H-1B visa holders in the US and the new policy is not going to impact the existing H-1B visa holding Indians in America.

'In fact, this may turn out to be more beneficial to them. This policy can result in the shortage of skilled workforce, especially in the STEM related fields, and the existing H-1B visa holding Indians can benefit from the same in the form of higher remuneration and result in higher remittances,' the source said.

India is also likely to benefit from the return of skilled manpower as these individuals are in huge demand in science and technology sectors and they can contribute to the country's progress by staying back.

This proclamation will impose new challenges and possibly force more work to be performed offshore as local is talent not available.

Further sources said that according to different studies, non-immigrants have contributed significantly to the economy of the US.

As per the promulgation, non-immigrant visas (NIVs) like H-1B, H-2B, L-1A, L-1B, J-1 and dependents have been temporarily suspended till December 31 this year and individuals receiving these visas, or seeking entry into the US for the first time from June 24 till December 31, 2020, would not be allowed.

Professor Biswajit Dhar of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) said, 'This is just a posturing by the US. The proclamation would have not much impact on India. Currently all international flights are suspended and no professionals would like to travel this time'.

An industry expert also said that the move would have limited impact on India because during this COVID-19 pandemic, international flights are suspended and no professional would like to visit any foreign country during this crisis time.

The development comes at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted businesses globally.

IT companies have had to enable work from home for a significant portion of their workforce to ensure business continuity for clients.

Industry body Nasscom has termed the proclamation as 'misguided' and 'harmful to the US economy' and said this could possibly force more work to be performed offshore since the local talent is not available in the country.

Indian IT companies get over 60 per cent of their revenues from the North American market, about 20 per cent from Europe and the remaining from the other economies. PTI RR ANZ MR