When U.S President Obama addressed the nation about the latest immigration reform bill last Thursday, technology companies in India and in the Silicon Valley reacted with a lukewarm response. That is because the immigration reform does not solve the problem that most Indian technology outsourcing companies are facing.
Tight limits on temporary work visas for high-skilled workers and a burdensome system for gaining green cards (permanent residential status) have caused many talented Indian programmers and engineers to give up and go back to India.
Though the President’s orders will improve the overall economy, his alterations to the immigration issues pertaining to high-skilled workers are not going to help the techie workforce of India, feel market experts. Most of the changes to the reform apply to the process involved in issuing green cards to immigrants.
With the new tweaks, immigrants can change jobs while awaiting approval from their current employer. Spouses of green card applicants can now also work in the U.S. Travel restrictions for applicants’ families have also been eased. Immigration options for foreign entrepreneurs have been expanded.
Several Indian outsourcing companies feel that the new immigration system does not take the needs of the technology industry into account or the value that Indian immigrant families have contributed towards the community. On the whole, Obama’s actions will not do much for the tech economy, though they may help individuals.
Emily Lam, the vice president of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a leading trade company representing over 400 technology companies, felt that legislative fixes were needed, as President Obama did not increase the number of visas for high-skilled workers. She felt that the immigration reform bill would definitely hit start-up firms and even large technology companies.
The H1B visas are currently capped at 65,000 a year. However, the number of applicants was expected to double, with more and more Indian, Chinese and Korean entrepreneurs hoping for a chance of getting into the United States. Several skilled techies now feel that they have to give u their aspirations, because they can’t obtain visas, says John Nahm, the managing director of Strong Ventures in Los Angeles (a company which advises and funds Asian entrepreneurs)
Some software companies in the United States prefer skilled techies from India, Croatia and Easter Europe to work within their country, rather than remotely developing software in an offshore location.
The nonpartisan Congress budget last year stated that a House Bill would be issued to raise the visa limit, which would in turn add over $118 billion to the U.S. economy, over a period of 10 years. However, that bill is now locked up with the Congress.
To conclude, the President’s orders on immigration may help several individuals, but will not do much for the overall tech economy of India, China and other such countries providing outsourcing solutions.
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