February 3, 2017 / 7:21 AM / 10 months ago

Indian IT firms to meet Trump officials on visa reform concerns

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Indian IT sector leaders will meet both U.S. lawmakers and officials from U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration later this month to lobby against any major changes to visa regulations that could hurt the country’s $150 billion industry.

Workers are pictured beneath clocks displaying time zones in various parts of the world at an outsourcing centre in Bangalore, February 29, 2012. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

R. Chandrashekhar, head of Indian IT industry body Nasscom, said details of the visit were still being finalised, but chief executives from some of India’s big IT companies would be part of a delegation visiting Washington in the week of Feb. 20.

India’s software services industry is concerned about a bill introduced in the U.S. Congress seeking to double the salary paid to H-1B visa holders which would dramatically increase the costs for the Indian companies employing them.

Indian IT service companies use H-1B visas to fly engineers to the U.S., their biggest market, to service clients, but some opponents in the United States argue they are misusing the programme to replace U.S. jobs.

Earlier in the week, Nasscom warned that a bill, introduced last month by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California, unfairly targets some of its members and will not solve a U.S. labour shortage in the tech sector.

Chandrashekhar told Reuters that the visit would also seek to emphasize the “the economic partnership that is being built between the two countries.”

India’s IT firms, led by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS.NS), Infosys (INFY.NS) and Wipro (WIPR.NS), have seen growth slow in 2016, as customers delayed spending ahead of the U.S. presidential election.

IT players told Reuters late last year they planned to speed up local hiring, acquire U.S. firms with bigger local workforces and make a renewed push on automation to counter the regulatory threat.

“Immigration concerns were a risk item, always there, but they are more pronounced now,” said a senior executive at L&T Technology Services (LTEH.NS), who declined to be named.

Speculation that Trump may issue an executive order curbing the H-1B programme sent shares in IT companies tumbling this week.

An Indian consultant working for Infosys in the U.S. said many of his colleagues were “dejected,” while another engineer working for Cisco (CSCO.O) in North Carolina said management had called in an immigration attorney to reassure employees.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs said it had expressed its concerns to the U.S. government.

“No executive order has been signed so far,” Vikas Swarup, a spokesman for the ministry told reporters on Thursday. “Such bills have been introduced in the past too and such bills have to go through the full Congressional process. So let’s not prejudge the outcome.”

Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Euan Rocha. Editing by Jane Merriman

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