New US data suggests Indian firms are backing away from the H-1B visa

Last Indian firm standing.
Last Indian firm standing.
Image: Reuters/Vivek Prakash
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The Donald Trump administration seems to have finally succeeded in dissuading Indian companies from relying too heavily on H-1B visas.

Only one Indian company, the IT services firm Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), was among the top 10 companies that filed the most labour condition applications (LCAs) before the United States Department of Labor in the year ended Sept. 30, 2018, official data show (pdf). An LCA is a document filed by companies seeking to hire someone on an H-1B visa to the department.

London-headquartered consulting firm Ernst & Young, which filed over 150,000 LCAs in the year, topped the list.

To be sure, the number of LCA applications is not the same as the number of H-1B applicants. In some cases, one LCA can be filed on behalf of multiple people. At other times, multiple LCAs can be issued for a single individual if he or she will work in two or more locations.

Still, by and large, LCAs are considered a trustworthy indicator of the number of H-1B visa applicants in a year.

Overall, the US government processed 654,360 applications during the period, certifying 599,782 and denying 8,627. Over 45,000 were withdrawn.

Fewer Indian takers

Until a year ago, at least three or four Indian firms made it to the top 10 in the list of companies with most positions certified.

But the trend seems to have reversed with the Trump administration tightening the noose around the H-1B visa allocation process. Not only are H-1B applications from India facing heightened scrutiny and delays than those from other countries, but they are also getting rejected at higher rates.

Under such circumstances, Indian firms have started pushing for hiring local talent in the US and setting up near-shore centres in neighbouring countries like Mexico and Guatemala.

“The H-1B programme is already being hammered. Individuals who are beneficiaries of prior approvals in the past are getting denials despite seeking extensions in the same category,” said Poorvi Chothani, managing partner at immigration law firm LawQuest, warning that employers are in for a double-whammy.

“Future H-1B aspirants will definitely be affected but even those who are already in H-1B status in the US are (also) likely to be affected,” Chothani added.