America needs more high-skilled worker visas: Column
Posted on April 16, 2013
President Obama has described the U.S.-Indian relationship as the “defining partnership of the 21st century.” Given the rich, multidimensional engagement between our two countries and the strategic convergence of our values and interests, he is absolutely right in doing so. The impressive growth in our trade and economic relations provide a robust foundation for this vision.
Less than a decade ago, trade between our two countries was $35 billion-a-year. Today, that number has nearly tripled to $100 billion and is poised to climb even higher. Major U.S. companies look to India as an essential outlet for growth — and vice versa. As the U.S. Congress considers immigration reform, this trajectory — and the mutual benefit it brings — should shape the conversation.
Critics of current immigration laws suggest restricting access for Indian companies to certain types of high-skilled worker visas (H-1B and L-1) that guide the mobility of professionals who help our businesses grow. Some prefer even capping the number of work visas available to highly skilled Indians or imposing extra fees on specific types of Indian firms. Information technology services would be disadvantaged by such changes.
Many IT companies, such as Tata Consultancy Services, WIPRO, Infosys and HCL, that are based in India bring employees to the U.S. — and for good reason. They provide the continuity and institutional knowledge required to serve commercial and governmental clients well — in the same way that Americans often staff the foreign offices of their own corporations. The expertise of these workers is crucial because they helped develop many of the devices and software that maintain and protect networks. Without their know-how, IT would simply not work the way it should.
The teams doing this work are highly trained and are often drawn from around the world. They are deployed from among the best available and qualified talent. Indian IT services companies use local hires whenever possible, of course. But depending on availability of skill sets, these companies require to use visa-holders in addition to local talent. Without these visa-holders, U.S. businesses and consumers would not benefit from the services they have come to rely on. Jobs would not be created and, in fact, could go elsewhere, including overseas. Local, state and federal tax revenues would, sadly and inevitably, decline.
Indian IT companies and the visa-holders they sponsor play a vital and vibrant role in America’s economy and the communities in which they work. Highly skilled foreign-born individuals have been praised repeatedly for their invaluable innovations and contributions in the U.S. The IT companies that sponsor them are also regularly recognized for their work and their contributions to the American way of life.
These Indian companies are the most vocal cheerleaders of the closer engagement between India and the United States and have played no small role in bringing our two nations closer together.
Today, Indian-based IT service providers employ well over 50,000 U.S. citizens and recruit and hire more each year. The industry supports more than 280,000other local U.S. hires and aids many U.S.-based companies in developing new products and improving operations and efficiencies. This, in turn, helps them both preserve and create jobs here in the U.S.
As U.S. policymakers move forward with the much needed efforts to reform the immigration system, we respectfully urge that they consider the impact of their decisions on the ability of both U.S. and foreign-based companies to expand now and in the future. The inspirational history of economic synergy between our two nations should serve as our guide to the future. A generous visa policy for highly skilled workers would help everyone; both nations would come out winners.
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