Sharma bats of Indian IT industry in the US

With growing complaints about Americans rejecting visa applications by Indian techies for visiting their customers there, Indian trade minister Anand Sharma’s office has issued a statement that he pressed the Americans for a more predictable visa process.

At present, many Indian companies are forced to make several applications to make up for the higher than usual visa rejection rates. Indian techies go to the US to continue the work that they have been doing on a long-distance basis from India, often during high-intensity work periods such as deployment.

Indian IT companies across the board have complained that the visa rejection rates for their employees have gone up substantially. To cope, many of them are forced to have more than one candidate for such US visits as they expect a high rejection rate.

Of late, US consulates in India do not allow techies into the US if they feel that the US firm is trying to cut costs by hiring Indians or Indian companies to do a job that can be done by engineers within the US. Many IT engineers have to ‘demonstrate’ before the consulate authorities that the job that they are going to the US to do can only be done by them, due to previous experience of working with the US firm from India, specialized skills etc..

Many Indian companies feel that it is politically impossible for the Obama administration to ease the current tight controls over visa grants as unemployment levels in the US have failed to go down despite the end of the recession.

However, Anand Sharma said that the High Tech and Labor (H1B and L1) visas that have so far been issued are only a fraction of the limits that the US itself has set.

“Sharma underscored the importance of free movement of professionals between the two countries. He specifically pointed to serious problems being faced by the Indian IT industry in obtaining H1B and L1 visas and sought its early redressal.

“He drew attention to the estimates by the Indian industry that the uptake of H1B visa this year has been less than half of annual prescribed limit, and the rejection rates have gone up,” his office said in a statement on his US visit where he attended various industry and bilateral fora.

Sharma also urged the US to sign ‘totalization agreement’ with India as well. Totalization agreements help Indian workers in the US from having to pay social security taxes as they will be returning to India and are unlikely to get the benefits such as pension and medicare.

“[Sharma] also elaborated on the need and importance of the early signing of the India-U.S. Totalization Agreement. He said that India has signed totalization agreements with several European countries, whose social security systems are different from the Indian system, and from the U.S. system.

“The United States has also has signed bilateral social security agreements with the same European countries. As such, the differing systems of social security should not be an impediment in signing of the India-U.S. Totalization Agreement,” Sharma’s office said.