India H1-B Visas Under Trump
Written by Nikhil Dhingra, 2/27/17
Ever since the inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20th, the global atmosphere has been tense about what a Trump administration might mean for business, trade, and international relations as a whole. With Trump touting his nationalistic policy of “America First” throughout the campaign trail, promising to bring jobs back to the United States and increase the scrutiny placed on skilled workers entering the country, many American businesses have become increasingly nervous about the future of their relationships.
Ever since the inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20th, the global atmosphere has been tense about what a Trump administration might mean for business, trade, and international relations as a whole. With Trump touting his nationalistic policy of “America First” throughout the campaign trail, promising to bring jobs back to the United States and increase the scrutiny placed on skilled workers entering the country, many American businesses have become increasingly nervous about the future of their relationships. On an international scale, India has become especially rattled by Trump’s campaign promises; according to NPR, “Indian IT giants outsource tens of thousands of tech specialists to the United States each year,” through which they have been able to create and maintain a multi-billion dollar industry.
An important aspect of Trump’s promise to punish companies who have outsourced jobs from the United States was his subsequent focus on tackling the H1-B visa program. His assurance to America to, “follow two simple rules; buy American and hire America” has Indian outsourcing firms beginning to brace for potential changes to the rules of the visa program. More specifically, some of Trump’s controversial reforms to the H1-B visa program include doubling the minimum salaries of the visa holders to $130,000, creating a “good faith” rule for firms to hire American workers before H1-B visa holders, and prohibiting the spouses of H1-B workers from working in the United States. In fact, only a few weeks ago were three private bills introduced into Congress regarding the H1-B visa program. The bills hope to increase the minimum salary required to obtain an H1-B visa, increase enforcement and enhance wage requirements for foreign H1-B workers, as well as re-establishing a market-based system of allocation for the visa program. In response, the Indian government has promised a reaction in the event that any of the bills are passed.
The severity of India’s reactions and the discomfort the Indian government and its people have been expressed towards these potential situations in ways are simple to understand when examining the numbers: India’s IT outsourcing sector makes up 9.3% of their GDP, generates $143 billion in revenue, and has created 3.7 million jobs. Globally, India is not the only country who stands to suffer from Trump’s crackdown on outsourcing; according to CNN, “India accounts for more than half of the global outsourcing market, and around $108 billion of its total revenue was generated overseas.” In fact, 62% of this revenue was generated right here in the United States. More importantly, 70% of the H1-B visas that are handed out are given to Indians, so a crackdown on the program would inevitably lead to a global shrinkage from the massive amount of technology workers India already outsources and we utilize to stimulate America’s technology sector.
With all of this in mind, it is clear that Trump’s crackdown on the H1-B visa program will only drive talented workers away from the United States and harm both our domestic and the global economy. While Trump aims to redirect focus towards American workers, the data presented precisely illustrates the negative effects that curbing India’s emigration of technology workers would have on America’s global development and how it could damage our role as a leading technological innovator. Instead of promoting economic growth by hiring American workers, Trump would only be ignoring crucial talent from foreign technology workers who have contributed billions of dollars in revenue to our economy. By doing so, Trump’s “America First” policy might actually put the country’s economic growth last.
As Nandan Nilekani, the billionaire co-founder of Infosys, one of the largest exporters of technology specialists in India, has said in response to Trump’s proposed reforms, “If you really want to keep the U.S….globally competitive, you should be open to overseas talent.” If Trump can begin to heed this advice, maybe there is still a chance for reason and logic to prevail over protectionist fears regarding globalization.