The protectionist policies of the Trump administration have started impacting several areas, the key among them is the issuance of work permit visas for foreign skilled workers. The Indian information technology companies have taken the brunt of the visa restrictions and suffered higher denial rates for H-1B visas. The denial rates have increased significantly from just 6% in 2015 to 24% in the third quarter of fiscal 2019. A study by the National Foundation for American Policy, based on data received from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), revealed that the rejection rate for H-1B visas is the highest among major Indian IT companies, thus giving credence to charges that they are being unduly targeted by the current administration. During the 2015-19 period, the denial rate jumped from 4% to 41% for Tech Mahindra, from 6% to 34% for Tata Consultancy Services, from 7% to 53% for Wipro and from just 2% to 45% for Infosys. At least 12 companies that provide professional or IT services to other US companies, including Accenture and Capgemini, had rejection rates of over 30% through the first three quarters of fiscal 2019. Most of these companies had denial rates between 2% and 7% as recently as in 2015. On the other hand, the denial rates for H-1B petitions for continuing employment among major American companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and Google continues to be very low.
It is an undeniable fact that some Indian IT companies, derisively referred in some circles as “body shops”, have abused the US visa system for years and cornered a major chunk of H-1B visas in the technology sector using questionable methods. However, the Republican administration’s pushback has been quite harsh, creating an imbalance and adversely impacting the careers of genuine, meritorious and professional workers. It must be pointed out that the fate of thousands of Indians chasing their dreams in the Land of Opportunity is inexorably linked to the US immigration system. Notwithstanding its avowed policy of encouraging merit-based immigration, the objective of the Trump administration appears to be to make it more difficult for the well-educated foreign nationals to work in America in science and engineering fields. For instance, in the first three quarters of fiscal 2019, the USCIS adjudicators denied 24% of H-1B petitions for ‘initial’ employment and 12% of H-1B petitions for ‘continuing’ employment, which is historically high. Experts have warned that restrictive H-1B policies could lead to exporting more jobs and businesses to countries like Canada and make the US lag behind in innovative capacity. Being unable to hire high-skilled foreign nationals, American companies will be forced to increase their hiring overseas, leading to more innovation by foreign nationals in other countries.