Trump’s Immigration Policy: What it means for the Indian IT Industry
Apparently, Indians in America are as prominent as Chinese products in India, and President Donald Trump realizes the former fact. Even if one happens to be the President of the greatest western superpower, there are certain facts that cannot be denied, and the progressive presence of Indians in the American social structure is one of them. At the risk of sounding clichéd, I’d like to remind how some of the finest brains from India are helping the likes of Google and Microsoft evolve. Hollywood is outsourcing its work in cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad, letting their own studios run dry. Unlike what has been usually projected, Indians do not rely on the American market for IT Jobs alone, but also for work in other sectors. However, given the obsession with engineering back home and America’s tech advances, one remains fixated at the IT Sector and this why the H-1B visa issue gained such traction.
Foreigners looking to work in America attained entry on the basis of H-1B visa. The minimum eligibility for this visa was graduation for workers from different nations. With close to 90,000 H-1B visas (and close to 100,000 being re-issued or extended) being made available each year before the ascent of Donald Trump, many tech giants in India saw this an appropriate route to send their workers abroad.
The workers had the freedom to work for 3-years in the field relevant to their graduation (or higher), and even apply for an extension. Here’s the fun part; contrary to what President Donald Trump or the American media projected, IT workers under the H-1B visa program constitute less than 15% of the total working population which is peaked at 900,000. Thus, this hue and cry about Indians stealing tech jobs were another rant from the Republicans to woo their voters.
Back in 2015, Trump was in favor of having people over legally in America in order to find jobs. By March, 2016, he reversed his stance, calling H1B program flawed. He emphasized on how jobs which otherwise went to H1B workers should go back to the Americans without any exception. A year later, as he took office, the order to review the H1B program was passed. Clearly, the likes of Google, Amazon, and Uber felt nervous, given how they had always relied on talent from India, ready to work on relatively lower wages. In 2016 alone, Indian workers constituted over 70% of the workforce employed under the H-1B visa program.
It must be remembered that at no point, during the campaign or while being in the Oval Office, did President Trump come close to eliminating the H-1B program altogether. In the midst all of this, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did receive a lot of flak for not being able to chalk out a solution for the growing uncertainty around the H-1B program. Layoffs occurred, which were both due to a slow market and the given uncertainty, and again the PM was blamed like he always his (My pizza had pineapple, where is the PM, damn!).
Finally, President Trump has managed to come out with a solution. (Maybe) Drawing inspiration from Vice-President Elect Venkaiah Naidu’s love for acronyms, a group of Republicans have come up with an act called ‘RAISE’ or Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment. To begin with, the bill will include a cap on the refugee intake, restricting it to 50,000 for one year. The green cards issued (not to be confused with H-1B visas) will be halved, and no longer will there be a lottery system for visa grant.
The fun doesn’t stop here, for anyone with a Nobel Prize or an Olympic Medal would have a better chance of getting into the US according to this new Law. Alongside, one’s age, qualification, English, salary offered, investments would be used as evaluation parameters. RAISE, in its existing form, favors the age group 26-30 (the usual age of IIT and IIM pass-outs), doctorate holders, and professionals with proficiency in English. While Indians aren’t used to having Olympic or Nobel prizes in their study rooms, they still wouldn’t find it difficult to obtain the minimum 30-points required for filing the visa application. I, with a UGC graduation, and assumed average job offer, were able to garner above 30-points with ease. You can find out your eligibility score here.
So, what does it mean for the Indian IT Industry?
According to a research, Indians in America are amongst the most highly-educated and qualified as an ethnic group. Clearly, a majority of the IITs and IIMs pass-outs, along with those from the 2nd tier colleges, find themselves in the US for work or study, making qualification a favorable aspect. Alongside, the maddening competition in India that starts when one is aged 5 fuels the mental capacity. For Indians, being qualified, intellectually and educationally, has never been a problem. This is one of the major reasons for Indians constituting the largest workforce under the H-1B visa program, and being indispensable to the Silicon Valley.
The same research discusses how Indians have a better median income (annual) than Asian Americans and Americans themselves. While this does create opportunities for investments, it keeps the Indian workforce alienated to poverty. Compared to 13% of the entire US population, merely 9% of the Indians live in financially extreme conditions.
However, while the maximum number of green card applicants from any one country has been capped at 7%, there is no such cap on H-1B visas. While the former is going to create a huge backlog of Indians looking to avail an opportunity to work in the US, professionals looking to work under the H-1B visa program will have to solely rely on merit, which is not uncommon with how things work in India.
Turns out, there is more than what meets the eye, especially in terms of employment pertaining to inter-country trade, in this case US and India. While there is a lot for the Indian IT Industry in store, there is never a mention of the jobs that are created in India due to the work done by the Indians abroad.
Let’s take the example of Uber, for since its inception in 2009, it has employed Indians under the H-1B program. Like Uber, multiple corporate entities based within the US and Europe are now targeting Indians for market expansion. In my city alone, Uber employs 20,000 drivers, and is looking to employ more as the market grows. Similarly, the ‘Uber for X’ business model has facilitated the emergence of multiple startups in India, further strengthening employment. With RAISE, India will find its workforce not only investing more in their skills, but also embarking on innovative tech pursuits. If they make it to the US, they win, and if they don’t, they’ll have to find a way to win back home.
Skeptics will tell you that there are no jobs, within the H-1B program or the country, but evidently, it all comes down to merit, and this is what ‘RAISE’ proposes.
Indians aren’t afraid of merit, for they have been groomed like that since they start school. The revamped H-1B visa program isn’t going to cut down jobs, for the likes of Google will still require the same number of people to run its operations, but make it more about skill than anything else, and in a country plagued with reservations of multiple kinds, this actually might do some good to the IT Industry. Clearly, not everyone will make the cut, and will have to employ their skills back home. Could this facilitate development for our domestic market? Yes!
More than the H-1B visa program, it’s the saturating growth of the domestic IT industry that must worry the Indians, and with President Trump now employing RAISE, Indians will have to groom their skills more than anything else to live the American dream.
For the ones who aren’t able to, the prospects of creating a better Indian dream are immense, only if they have the vision for it.