The Donald Trump administration is posing a severe threat to Indian H-1B aspirants

Is there a rift?
Is there a rift?
Image: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
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The US is not happy about India’s data localisation plans and is reportedly retaliating by crushing Indians’ H-1B dreams.

The Donald Trump administration plans to slash the number of H-1B visas that go to Indians, according to a Reuters report.

Every year, Indians claim almost three-quarters of the 85,000 visas issued to foreign workers via a lottery, with most going to techies. The US government could now restrict Indians’ share to between 10% and 15% of the annual quota, two unnamed senior Indian government officials told the news agency.

The Reuters report said:

The United States has told India it is considering caps on H-1B work visas for nations that force foreign companies to store data locally, three sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters, widening the two countries’ row over tariffs and trade.

About a year ago, the justice BN Srikrishna committee’s personal data protection bill, 2018 had said all companies must physically store the data of their Indian users within the country. The proposed rule could add a huge financial and logistical burden on non-Indian companies.

The likes of Mastercard raised an issue over this, saying the bill could hamper fraud detection. Other industry groups representing tech giants like Amazon and American Express also lobbied against it citing the heavy cost of maintaining local data centres and servers.

Since then, trade tensions have been rife between the US and India, giving rise to tariff wars.

Starting June 16, India imposed higher tariffs on 29 US goods. The decision came on the heels of Washington DC withdrawing a key trade privilege for New Delhi that allowed duty-free exports of up to $5.6 billion (Rs39,000 crore) earlier in the month.

However, curbing H-1B visas for Indian aspirants won’t happen overnight, experts say. It’ll likely require the Congress’s approval.  The fear is palpable, though. The Sensex and Nifty have already dipped since Reuters published its report. “This slide in the Indian indices is mainly due to the heavy selloff in the IT and tech stocks that is caused by the H-1B visa row that has emerged recently between the Indo-US administration,” Prakash Pandey, head of research at Fairwealth Securities, told Zee Business.

Already, getting the H-1B has become a task, with increased paperwork and tightened criteria.

The Trump administration may, however, face global pressure if it tries to cap the H-1B for Indians, Jack Caporal, an associate fellow with the Scholl Chair in International Business at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said in a tweet.