Nasscom Insists It’s the United States That Needs to Get Its Act Together

Don Tennant

Last month, I wrote a post in which I argued that Nasscom, the Indian IT industry trade association, was setting Indian IT companies up for failure in the United States by focusing on what the U.S. government needs to change, rather than on the conduct that Indian companies need to change. Ameet Nivsarkar, the Nasscom vice president who had made the comments that prompted my post, subsequently emailed me to provide a response, the full text of which I posted. Nivsarkar welcomed me to write to him if I needed any further information. So I did.

I sent Nivsarkar an email with seven questions. Because he was traveling, he forwarded the questions to a Nasscom spokesperson, who provided the responses. Here are my questions, and the responses I received:

QUESTION: In what sense is Nasscom “concerned over recent investigation in the U.S. involving some Indian companies”?

ANSWER: Nasscom has always championed the need for a high level of scrutiny and documentation to be maintained by the industry in visa applications and filings. On multiple occasions, Nasscom has partnered with the U.S. State Department in India to hold workshops for educating the industry and creating awareness. However, we understand that in many areas parameters governing H1B/L1 visas are not clearly defined. Our concern is that without tangible and unambiguous legislation, investigations cannot be carried out objectively.

QUESTION: With respect specifically to the investigation of Infosys, is it Nasscom’s belief that the investigation is unwarranted or unfair in any way?

ANSWER: We do not comment on company-specific issues.

QUESTION: Do you disagree with the contention that Indian IT companies have willfully and knowingly violated U.S. immigration and tax laws?

ANSWER: Our view on this broadly is that visa regimes in most countries, including the U.S., were framed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, much has changed since and just tweaking visa rules cannot be a solution when there is a need for a comprehensive review of what exists today. Visa rules for work have to be different from those for people seeking to migrate. In a globalised world, industry needs movement of a skilled workforce as much as movement of capital and goods across borders. Global companies have large operations across the world, and any willful violation will not be condoned.

QUESTION: To what extent is the backlash from the willful violation of U.S. immigration and tax laws by Indian companies a factor in the rise of the visa rejection rate to 40 percent?

ANSWER: We would not be in a position to know this.

QUESTION: To what does Nasscom attribute the fact that the visa rejection rate has risen to 40 percent?

ANSWER: The recent cases of visa rejection is a matter of immense concern for Indian IT and has been impacting the workflow of companies, in addition to causing them additional expenditure. Nasscom is talking to the U.S. government on behalf of the industry. The problem seems to be that the parameters governing H1B and L1 visas are not clearly defined. In most of these cases, companies as well as visa adjudicators have had challenges in interpreting the language. Our only request to the U.S. government has been to have tangible, unambiguous and clear guidelines that leave no room for interpretation. I am enclosing herewith a letter that was written by 60 American companies to the President of the U.S. on the rejection issue.

QUESTION: Of the 280,000+ jobs that the Indian IT industry has created and supports in the U.S., what percentage of those jobs are held by U.S. citizens?

ANSWER: The industry itself has invested significantly in the U.S. The Indian IT industry has created and supports over 280,000 jobs in the U.S. and has contributed over $15 billion in taxes to the U.S. Treasury. A study done by Nasscom-Zinnov, which was released in March this year, shows that 200,000 of the 280,000 jobs are held by U.S. residents.

QUESTION: What exactly is the “flawed logic” you were referring to in the statement that was quoted in the article I referenced?

ANSWER: What we intended was there is a general perception that the prevailing high unemployment rate is due to the Indian IT industry. However, a deep dive in non-farm payroll data (of the last four years) reveals that maximum job losses have been in construction, retail, manufacturing and government sectors and not in the tech sector. The unemployment rate for [skilled] people with a Bachelor degree is 4.2 percent, compared to the national rate of 8.1 percent, and 12.6 percent for people with less than a high school diploma. In economic theories, any rate of around 4 percent depicts a skills shortage.

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