The US Citizenship and Immigration Services has reportedly received a total of 22,000 H-1B visa applications in the first four days of the quota opening up for this year.
At face value, this seems to be good news on two fronts: one, American firms are slowly getting out of their recession mode and investing in increasing capacity as well as expanding their businesses. Secondly, US businesses are back into outsourcing mode, a trend that is good for Indian IT firms as much of their international business comes from the American market.
H-1B applications had fallen to less than 6,000 last year in the skilled worker category. In 2010, that figure was 13,000. The US has a cap of 65,000 in the skilled worker category for H-1B, and another 20,000 for advanced degree holders.
However, this rising trend this year would be slight distortion of reality. For, the US citizen services have been rejecting another category of visas — L1 — which allows Indian companies to relocate some of their skilled staff to their American subsidiaries.
The US administration, under President Barack Obama, has put severe restrictions on immigration of even skilled workers into the country in the name of giving American professionals a fair deal.
The L1 visa allows immigrants to work for three years in the US, and is often considered as the stepping stone towards the holy grail of all immigrants — the Green Card, which gives them a “permanent resident” status.
These trends show that the US, mostly because of a weakened economy and an almost- double-digit unemployment rate, has been really rigid over letting legal immigrants into the country.
Politicians have always played to the gallery in the US, and President Obama is no different. And let’s not forget that this is election year. Chances are, that US-India business relations are not going to improve soon, especially in those areas that require outsourcing of Indian talent.