United States President Donald Trump's relationship with Silicon Valley has never been smooth, and now it's poised to become even more contentious with his recent executive orders targeting H-1B visas. Many tech heads seem averse to Trump administration's prospective restrictions on H1-B visas. However, there are a handful of entrepreneurs who think the move could be productive, if executed thoughtfully.
Kalpesh Kapadia, CEO of SelfScore, a startup in Silicon Valley which offers fair credit to international students in the US, believes that although the H1-B restrictions may hit international students, the move can help put a stop to the abuse of specialised visas.
The US H1-B visa is a non-immigrant visa, which allows firms to hire foreign workers in specialised occupations. The H-1B and L1 work visas are majorly used by Indian IT professionals. Currently, the cap on H1B visas stands at 65,000, of which 25,000-35,000 are issued to Indian nationals.
Kapadia talks to International Business Times-India about H1-B visas, international students in US and Trump's immigration policy. Excerpts:
What do you think of Trump's executive orders on immigration and "extreme vetting"? How will it affect the entry of international students to the US and the tech industry?
It's a slippery slope and not the best way to stop terrorists from infiltrating the USA. Trump's recent executive orders on immigration and "extreme vetting" will have a chilling effect on students' desires to pursue higher education and a better life.
Trump is set to roll out orders targeting H1-B visas, how do you think it will affect Indian workers in the US?
If done thoughtfully, the new orders could stop the abuse of the H1-B visa program in replacing American workers and lowering wages. The H1-B visa program was originally intended to attract exceptional talent to fill highly technical jobs where there was shortage of enough skilled Americans.
With specific reference to draft executive orders (leaked by Vox) on not allowing spouses of H-1B visa holders to work after entering the US, how will it affect the overall mood among Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who came as immigrants to the US?
It was only recently that H4 visa holders became eligible to work, and the conditions under which they can work are highly restrictive. We think this is a legitimate issue that deserves more attention, but we don't think it will impact many people.
One of the drafts of Trump's proposed orders also refers to "improved monitoring of foreign students" and "site visits" of companies that hire L1 visa holders by the US homeland security department. How would that impact Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and international students?
There will likely be improved monitoring of foreign students, as there have been abuses in the past where individuals came as students with Form I-20s through phony universities then went on to work at restaurants and drive for Uber.
How adversely will Trump's immigration orders and the probable H1-B visa restriction affect Indian students looking to seek higher education in the US?
Trump's immigration orders and the probable H1-B visa restriction will deter Indian students, and other international students alike, from seeking higher education in the United States. Students might consider exploring other destinations, such as Canada and Australia.
What does the statistics say about the number of Indians and Asians holding L1B visa at present?
I'm not sure about the number of Asians currently holding L-1 visas. However, there are no limits on the amount of L-1 visas distributed per year, according to InformationWeek. Between 2009 and 2013, an average of 67,855 L-1 visas were issued per year, according to US State Department records.
Will the executive orders lead to increasing profiling at workplace in the US?
The executive orders may have many unintended consequences.
How would these executive orders affect productivity in US tech companies?
As of now, I don't think the executive orders will have a large effect on productivity in US tech companies.
A legislation was also introduced in the US House of Representatives on Tuesday calling for more than doubling the minimum salary of H-1B visa holders to $130,000 from $60,000, making it difficult for firms to use the programme to replace American employees with foreign workers, including from India. The High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017 was introduced by California Congressman Zoe Lofgren.
However, NASSCOM, the Indian IT trade association, has said that if passed, the bill will deal a huge blow to the migrant workers dependent on the H1-B visa, particularly the Indian workers. The bill will make it difficult for firms to use the programme to replace American employees with foreign workers.