NASSCOM, the trade association for the Indian IT and business process outsourcing industry, responded to criticism that workers coming to the US on H-1B visas — for highly skilled temporary foreign workers such as those in IT — have only minimum skills.
The criticism came from Jack “Jay” Palmer, a former Infosys employee whose complaints led to an investigation that resulted in a fine for Infosys. Palmer spoke during a hearing of the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary on March 17 called “Immigration Reforms Needed to Protect Skilled American Workers.” It included testimony citing concerns over H-1Bs and other visas.
“I cannot emphasize enough that the H-1B workers that are replacing the US workers have minimal skills and little to no business knowledge,” Palmer testified. He also argued the wage floor of H-1B workers is too low and criticized use of B-1 visas, separate from H-1B visas.
NASSCOM argued Palmer’s statement on Indian H-1B workers was untrue, and Indian workers are highly trained and qualified.
“Indian companies and their employees working in the US are deeply committed to the US marketplace and are important contributors in their local communities as well as the country as a whole,” R. Chandrashekhar, NASSCOM president, said in a statement.
“Apart from the cutting-edge work, Indian corporate and individual citizens are deeply ingrained in the country’s everyday activities,” Chandrashekhar said. “We feel that the allegations made are completely misplaced and rhetorical. Indian IT-ITeS employees going onsite are both educated and skilled and are subjected to laws that govern that particular visa category. NASSCOM will continue to work with different stakeholders in India and the US to address this issue and ensure that Indian companies and their employees continue to deliver the best of the technologies and technological advancements to the US.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is chairman of the committee. Grassley has also been a critic of the H-1B program. And the hearing included other critics of the program.
The hearing comes shortly before the filing period for H-1B visas begins next month. US Citizenship and Immgration Services recently announced it expects again be more demand for H-1B visas than are available. H-1B visas are capped at 65,000 plus another 20,000 for workers with a US master’s degree or higher. If more visa petitions are received than available visas, USCIS will determine who receives a visa via lottery.
Last year, the agency received 172,500 petitions for the available visas. Some believe even more petitions will be received this year.
Separately, President Obama on Monday announced policy guidance will be coming for L-1B visas that allow international companies to temporarily bring workers with specialized knowledge to the US when launching or conducting operations here.
“My administration is going to reform the L-1B visa category, which allows corporations to temporarily move workers from a foreign office to a US office in a faster, simpler way,” Obama said in a speech. “And this could benefit hundreds of thousands of nonimmigrant workers and their employers; that, in turn, will benefit our entire economy and spur additional investment.”