Trump celebrating Diwali
Trump celebrating Diwali.Facebook

A Congressional committee in the United States on Thursday, passed a legislation that aims at raising the minimum salary of H-1B visa holders from $60,000 to $90,000. It also imposes a number of restrictions on the visa, which is popular among Indian IT professionals.

The Protect and Grow American Jobs Act (HR 170) was passed by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. This bill will now head to the full House for further approval. A similar version of the bill has to be passed by the Senate as well, before it can be sent to the White House for the US President Donald Trump to be signed into the law, The Press Trust of India reported.

This bill, however, bans H1-B dependent employers from replacing American jobs with H1-B employees, pointing out that there are no longer any exceptions.

It further increased the period of the no-layoff policy for H1-B dependent companies and their client companies. As per the new bill, the companies cannot layoff equivalent US workers as long as an H1-B visa holder continues to work at the company.  

Once the bill becomes a law, the employers will have to hire H1-B visa holders at a higher salary.  The reason why the Protect and Grow American Jobs Act looks to increase the salary requirements for the H1-B visa holders is that it would make hiring of foreign workers less attractive from the point of view of the companies. 

"They must pay the lower of $1, 35,000--which is indexed for inflation--or the average wage for the occupation in the area of employment, but with a floor of $90, 000," said a media release issued by the House Judiciary Committee.

According to NASSCOM president R Chandrashekhar, the bill could harm US businesses and impose high bureaucratic pressure on a visa programme that largely contributes to the US growth.

"It also could disrupt the marketplace, threaten thousands of US jobs, and stifle US innovation by unfairly and arbitrarily targeting a handful of companies who used just 16 per cent of the new H-1B visas in FY 2016 while imposing no new requirements on the vast majority of companies that use the visas to do the same exact same things," said Chandrashekhar.

This move came after the Trump administration passed on a new directive last month which will add to the stress of H1-B and L1 visa holders in the US as the burden of proof will now fall on the applicant not only when applying for the H1-B the first time, but each time an extension is sought.

That move will give a hard time to the Indian techies as both the visas are very popular among Indian IT workers. These IT professionals and other workers who hold the H1-B visa will have to now face the same intense scrutiny they faced earlier.

Recently, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also flagged the H-1B visa issue as a "strong concern" during a meeting with a visiting US Congressional delegation and sought an additional support for it.

Sushma Swaraj
In picture: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj speaks at the UNGA in New York in September 2017.Twitter/BJP4India

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley also on his recent visit to the US, had raised the issue during his meetings and said that those coming from India on H-1B visas are high value professionals, who contribute largely to the US economy. He also added that the US must decide appropriately while taking a decision on its visa policy.

In addition, a latest data from job site Indeed also showed there has been a sharp drop in the number of Indians seeking to move to the US and the UK over a year, compared to the corresponding period the previous year.

About 38 percent drop was seen in the number of Indians wanting to work in the US and 42 percent in the UK. Overall, the data showed there was a 5 percent drop in the Indians looking to move abroad in search of job opportunities.

Such crackdown on H-1B visas by the US might also push this number up.