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More techies denied H-1B visa in Financial Year 2011

Increasing numbers of skilled Indian professionals are being denied non-immigrant visas by the United States, making it difficult for information technology firms to send employees to client locations in that country, limiting their ability to win more business and potentially forcing them to hire more locals.

Rejection rates for H-1B visas were as high as 17% in the last financial year while 27% of L-1B visas petitions were declined, according to US-based National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), which relied on data released by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Five years ago, in the 2006-07 financial year, these numbers stood at 11% and 7%, respectively. Further, firms seeking visas also faced massive delays as clarifications, or 'requests for evidence,' spiked to 63% from 24% five years ago.

In 2010, application fees for H-1B visas were doubled to fund America's security measures along its southern neighbour Mexico.

"The dramatic increase in denial rates and requests for evidence for employment petitions without any change in the law or regulations raises questions about the training, supervision and procedures of the career bureaucracy that adjudicates petitions and the US government's commitment to maintaining a stable business climate for companies competing in the global economy," NFAP said in its February report. Indian IT firms have complained of higher visa rejections over the past two-three years, resulting in loss of business and revenue.

"It is a concern. We have given the same data that we used to but authorities have become stricter so the rejection rates have gone up. We are making up by increasing our hiring locally," the chief financial officer of Infosys, V Balakrishnan said.

Industry body Nasscom's president Som Mittal said new filters have been introduced in the process by visa offices but companies have not been informed of the same. The US consulate general in Chennai did not reply to email queries for this story.

An L-1B visa is meant for workers with specialised knowledge of the company's area of work but tech firms are largely dependant on H-1B visas meant for 'speciality occupations' including engineering, mathematics and social sciences among others.

Indian IT firms and multinationals such as IBM and Microsoft who have large operations in India are the biggest users of H-1B visas.

The US market accounts for over 50% of the total software exports from India and companies send thousands of employees every year to visit clients, make sales pitches and work on projects. Last year for instance, Cognizant bagged the largest number of H-1B visas followed by Infosys and Wipro. The company got almost 6,000 H-1B visas of the 60,000 that are approved every year, while Infosys got 4,000.

In response, Indian IT firms have been vocal about meaning to hire more aggressively in the US. They want to appear as job creators in the US, a market which is perceived to be turning increasingly protectionist, especially at a time when unemployment remain high in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

While Infosys plans to increase its US headcount by a thousand every year, cross-town rival Wipro has said at least 50% of its staff in a foreign locations would comprise locals.

Source: PTI

Published date : 22 Feb 2012 03:10PM

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