NAFTA Gives Indian Outsourcers Another Visa Option


For the first year in recent memory, there are plenty of H-1B visas to go around. As of last month, 20,000 of the 65,000 controversial H-1B visas awarded each year were still available.


The recession likely has as much to do with it as anything, although the federal government has placed restrictions on the hiring of H-1B workers by U.S. financial institutions and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has pledged to crack down on fraud in the H-1B program.


Still, this threatened political pressure may cause Indian outsourcing providers to hiremore workers to Mexico and then move them to the U.S., a relatively simple process thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement.


Indian companies could hire Mexican citizens who'd be eligible for a TN visa, used by Mexican and Canadian nationals who can meet educational and professional experience requirements, reports Computerworld. Anastasia Tonello, a lawyer interviewed in the article, says there is no cap for the NAFTA Professional TN visa, which is good for three years and can be extended. It's also easier to get than the H-1B, she says.


Phaneesh Murthy, president and CEO of IT services provider iGate Corp., a company headquartered in California that employs most of its 6,500 workers in India, mentioned the issue in a recent earnings call, telling analysts:

We will probably utilize a higher growth in our Mexican center by having more people come from Mexico to the U.S., where they don't need the H-1B because of being part of NAFTA.

Indian outsourcing companies have been beefing up their presence in Mexico for at least a few years. When I wrote about it in 2007, Wipro and Infosys were opening software development centers there and Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Indian government officials had agreed to a goal of more than doubling trade between the two countries by 2010 during Calderon's visit to India. Calderon was the first Mexican president to visit India in 22 years. Only a tiny portion of Indian companies' workforces are currently based in Mexico, the article notes.