Saturday, November 22, 2014

Of Computer Coolies and Obama

Venkatesh Ganesh

Obama’s immigration move: need to look at the fineprint, says IT industry 

It’s cheering the positives, but cautious too
It may be cheering US President Barack Obama’s stance on immigration, but the IT industry is also waiting to see the details of the Bill. Obama said the US will make it easier and quicker for highly skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to its economy, as many business leaders have proposed.
Nasscom president R Chandrashekhar said that though the US President’s stance on streamlining procedures to retain skilled foreign tech students and workers is a positive, the industry is waiting for the fineprint.
Also, the industry body believes that more clarity is needed on the L1B visa, a non-immigration visa issued for intra-company employee transfers.
The caution stems from a proposed Bill, worked on by a group of US Senators known as the Gang of Eight, since 2013. The Bill has put in some clauses that were causing concern to Indian software exporters, who rely on having their staff onsite to complete projects.
The H1B and L1 Visa Reform Act of 2013 ensures that an H1-B application filed by an employer hiring 50 or more US workers will not be accepted unless the employer attests that less than 50 per cent of the workforce is made up of H1B and L1 visa holders.
“From what has come out, this has no negative ramification for us,” said Ganesh Natarajan, Vice-Chairman and CEO of Zensar Technologies.
Indian companies and multinationals such as IBM and Microsoft, which have a large Indian workforce, have been watching the developments closely for more than 18 months and have been stating that the US needs more highly skilled workers, as it is unable to produce the required number every year.
In April last year, Wipro Chairman Azim Premji told newspersons that if the procedures are not simplified and speeded up, it will impact the work of both Indian and multinational companies. Indian companies have been applying for fewer visas over the past three years as visa rejection has been on the rise.
With inputs from S Ronendra Singh in New Delhi
(This article was published on November 21, 2014) 
Source: Business Standard

Computer Coolies’ Colic

First Published: Thu, Feb 06 2014. 03 31 PM IST

India warns US of consequences on visa reform

Indian ambassador Jaishankar says the changes would be harmful to the US economy and also to the relationship between the two countries

India warns US of consequences on visa reform
Indian ambassador to US Subrahmanyam Jaishankar says we think this is actually going to be harmful to us. It would be harmful to the US economy and, frankly, it would be harmful to the relationship between the two countries. Photo: AFP
Washington: India has warned the United States of consequences for its companies if lawmakers tighten visa rules on high-tech firms as part of an immigration overhaul.
Ambassador Subrahmanyam Jaishankarsaid that India would see a decision to restrict certain temporary visas for skilled workers as a sign that the US economy is becoming less open for business.
“We think this is actually going to be harmful to us. It would be harmful to the American economy and, frankly, it would be harmful to the relationship” between the two countries, Jaishankar told AFP in an interview.
“Once I feel I’m not getting a fair deal, I am less responsive to the concerns of the other party. Then tomorrow if an American company comes and says, ‘You know, we’ve got this set of problems,’ the temptation for me is to say, ‘I’m out for lunch,” he said.
The Republican leadership of the House of Representatives recently laid out general principles for an overhaul of immigration — whose main goal would be to give legal status to the estimated 11 million undocumented foreigners in the United States.
A version passed last year by the Senate, which is led by President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party, offers automatic immigrant visas for foreigners who earn advanced science degrees at US universities. But it changes rules on so-called H-1B visas, which are issued to skilled workers who come temporarily to the United States.
The Senate bill, while increasing the overall number of H-1B visas available, would hike fees and restrict additional H-1B visas for companies considered dependent on such foreign workers. The move came after complaints by US companies and labor groups that Indian tech firms bring in their own, lower-paid employees rather than hiring Americans.
Jaishankar charged that the changes attacked the business model of India’s showcase IT industry, which he said was making the US economy more competitive by helping companies operate round-the-clock.
The ambassador said he raised his concerns in meetings with more than 25 members of Congress, including House Speaker John Boehner and Senate majority leader Harry Reid, since he arrived in Washington in December.
‘Scare-mongering’ by drug companies
Another prominent lawmaker, senator Orrin Hatch, recently called India “the biggest battlefield” for intellectual property rights and accused the country of “rampant piracy and counterfeiting” to benefit its own industries.
Hatch made his remarks at the US Chamber of Commerce, which released a report that ranked India at the bottom of 25 countries in protection of intellectual property.
Jaishankar said he was “very surprised” by Hatch’s remarks and charged that the pharmaceutical industry was driving criticism of India, with few complaints about intellectual property rights in other sectors.
India has a major generic drug industry that produces cheaper copycat versions of life-saving branded medicines. But Jaishankar said it was incorrect to suggest that a “huge number of patents” was under threat.
“I would very honestly describe it as scare-mongering tactics and, frankly, I don’t think it’s helpful,” he said. “If there is an expectation that by doing this, we are setting ourselves up for a serious conversation, I think someone’s got something wrong.”
“Affordable health care is the number one issue in the United States. There is almost a presumption here that what is a legitimate concern for Americans should not be a legitimate concern for Indians,” he said.
Jaishankar arrived in Washington amid one of the worst crises in years between the world’s two largest democracies after authorities in New York arrested an Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, on charges of underpaying her domestic servant and lying on her visa application.
Jaishankar said that Indians “disagree strongly” with the US treatment of Khobragade, who returned to India under a deal after an indictment, but played down the impact on overall ties.
He said that India and the United States — whose relationship has rapidly grown since estrangement during the Cold War — shared common interests on security and political issues.
“I would not assume that there’s something structurally wrong or some revisiting of the basics of our relationship,” he said. AFP

H-1B ‘lottery’ to resume April 1, 2014
H-1B ‘lottery’ to resume April 1, 2014
By Atty. Daniel Hanlon
Published: January 29, 2014 | No Comments
WITH the US House of Representatives showing zero initiative towards
overhauling the nation’s immigrations laws, it appears that H-1B visas
for FY 2015 will run out on April 1, 2014, six months before the fiscal
year even begins. Last year, the annual H-1B quota (“H-1B Cap”) was
reached within the first week of the filing period, which began on April
1, 2013. On April 7, 2013, the USCIS employed a computer-generated
“lottery process” to select enough petitions needed to meet the regular
H-1B cap of 65,000 and the 20,000 under the advanced degree exemption or
“Master’s Cap.” Notwithstanding the obvious signals to the US Congress
that the current H-1B quota is grossly inadequate to meet the US
economy’s need for specialty workers, the House of Representatives has
done nothing to improve the situation for talent-starved companies in
the US, setting the stage for another “H-1B lottery” in 2014.
The only problem with this “lottery” is that there are no winners.
Employers wishing to hire a foreign –born professional in a “specialty
occupation” must essentially take a risk that the time, effort and
expense they incur in filing an H-1B petition may all go for naught, as
their H-1B petition is not selected under the “random” lottery process.
The problem is obvious:
The annual cap of 65,000 regular H-1B visa, which was the number set
by the US Congress is 1990, is grossly inadequate to accommodate the
demand of US businesses, even as the US economy is steadily improving.
Even with the addition of 20,000 H-1B Visas for employees who have
obtained Master’s Degrees or higher in the US, the H-1B quota is still
over 100,000 short of where it was in 2001, when Congress temporarily
expanded the quota to 195,000.
Employers seeking to hire an H-1B professional must establish that
the prospective employee: (1) has a bachelor’s degree; (2) seeks to come
to the United States to perform services in a position requiring a
bachelor’s degree or higher for entry into the position; and that (3)
the degree is directly related to the nonimmigrant’s field of endeavor.
The US employer or sponsor must demonstrate a need for a worker and
attest that insufficient domestic labor is available to fill the need.
Of course, the US employer must also establish his ability to pay the
“prevailing wage” for the position.
If the intended worker is overseas, he may obtain an H-1B visa from
the US Embassy upon USCIS approval of a Petition in the US. A
nonimmigrant visitor in the United States, for instance on a B-2 visa,
may apply for “change of status” from visitor to H-1B professional
worker. The new status will be indicated on the person’s I-94, but is
not a travel document. In order to travel and reenter the United States
in H-1B status, a visa must be obtained at a US Embassy or consulate
The number and types of occupations that will qualify people for
classification as H-1B professional workers are constantly expanding.
With the development of so many new highly specialized occupations in
the high-tech industries, more and more H-1Bs are necessary to fill the
demand, and to maintain the status quo for more traditional occupations
such as accountants and engineers.
Even considering the various categories of H-1B petitions that are
exempt from the cap, there is little doubt that all H-1B availability
will be exhausted on April 1, 2014 or shortly thereafter. With this in
mind, any employer wishing to have his H-1B petition considered must be
prepared to file the petition well in advance of the April 1, 2014
lottery commencement.
* * *
Daniel P. Hanlon is a California State Bar Certified Specialist in
Immigration and Nationality Law and a principal of Hanlon Law Group, PC,
located at 225 S. Lake Ave., 11th Floor in Pasadena, California; Tel.
No. (626) 585-8005. Hanlon Law Group, PC is a “full-service Immigration
Law firm.” E-mail: and
Asian Journal Publications
Copyright © 2014 Asian Journal – The Filipino-American Community Newspaper. All Rights Reserved.

An arduous path to green cards
By canuck, on April 9th, 2006
To hear a 90-second sample of [H1Bees] and learn more about its creator, go to H1Bees
The photograph of Meenaish Damania – shown in a white sari, smiling
and hopeful on her wedding day a year ago in India – occupies a place of
pride in the MBA-educated banker’s Morrisville apartment.
Damania was coming to the United States as the wife of one of India’s
software studs with an H1B, the State Department’s highly coveted
temporary work visa for skilled professionals.
She knew visa rules barred her from employment until the U.S.
government accepted her husband’s application for a green card, the
document that would allow him to stay in the country permanently.
What Damania did not know was that it could take nearly a decade.
With the Senate deadlocked over a bill that would give millions of
illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, the legal, highly educated
H1Bs and their spouses say their struggle to become permanent residents
has been overlooked.
The wait to be a new American is so long that former golden boys from
India – homeland to about half the H1Bs, who tend to cluster in
science, engineering and high-tech jobs – have seen their stock in the
marriage market driven down.
The visa used to make bachelors returning home for brides instantly
desirable. Now ads for grooms like the one published in a Kashmiri daily
a few years ago – Seeking smart, USA based, IT/MBA, H1B, Brahmin Boy –
have dwindled.
Because the permanent-residency application is sponsored by an
employer and tied to a specific job description, H1Bs cannot change
companies or be promoted. They’re stifled, they say, with no chance for
advancement. And their spouses languish, bored and jobless, a half-world
from friends and family.
Damania, whose husband, Nozer, is a Web developer, volunteers at the
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to stay sane.
“It was depressing,” Damania, 25, said. “I had to do something.”
Some guest workers say the backlog handcuffs them to exploitative
bosses. Others, researchers in cutting-edge fields such as
nanotechnology, can’t get grants. They are available only to green-card
The backlog could hurt the U.S. economy as much as it hurts imported brainiacs and their families, the guest workers say.
“We’re talking about highly skilled labor that’s in short supply,”
said Kartik Hosanagar, an H1B from India who is on the faculty at the
Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
“That’s certainly something the U.S. economy cannot afford to lose,” Hosanagar said.
The State Department and Department of Homeland Security are
uncertain how many H1Bs are in the country. B. Lindsay Lowell, a labor
migration expert at Georgetown University, estimates there are 500,000.
The guest workers receive three-year visas that can be renewed once. During that time, many apply to stay permanently.
Backlogs have been a persistent problem for the Bureau of Citizenship
and Immigration Services. In 2000, Congress told the agency it should
take no more than 11/2 years to get a green card.
The number of applications for employment-based cards far exceeds the
140,000 available each year. Making things worse, the bureau’s
ombudsman said, the federal agency squandered about a quarter of the
slots available between 2001 and 2004 by failing to process paperwork
Cyber Fuse Technologies, the Bucks County company that hired Nozer
Damania, started his green-card process in 2003. It had to prove to the
U.S. Labor Department that it advertised for the job at the prevailing
wage and found no qualified Americans.
Nozer Damania, who is 28, also had to pass a background check. That was in 2005.
Now he is stuck waiting to enter the final phase. The government only
this month began to consider applications from Indian H1Bs who cleared
security and other hurdles in February 2001. Those lucky souls will get
behind 168,000 to 271,000 – government entities disagree on the number –
already in line.
“There’s no end in sight,” Nozer Damania, a 2002 Drexel University
graduate, said. “Because of the whole stress on illegal immigration,
we’ve been completely forgotten.”
The guest worker professionals already have an unofficial anthem. The
lighthearted “H1Bees,” as in “worker bees,” was written by Srikanth
Devarajan, Washington-area software programmer who arrived from India on
the visa in the mid-90s. The “curry rock” bard captures H1B culture
shock and abuse by “body shops,” consulting firms that sponsor their
green cards and farm them out for a cut of their wages.
Now, to remind Congress that they contribute to the U.S. economy,
2,500 foreign-born pharmaceutical, high-tech, finance and hospital
employees have banded together via the Internet to form Immigration
The association is devoted to fixing the backlog, which it blames on hopeless bureaucracy and ill-conceived immigration quotas.
Congress’ attempt to address illegal workers has inflamed an
“anti-immigration lobby” that acts as if “every immigrant is a guy who
walked across the border, which is not the case,” said Shreyas Desai,
27, of Lafayette Hill, one of the group’s founders.
While Microsoft and other employers lobby Congress regularly to
increase the number of H1B visas, capped at 65,000 annually, the
association is the first effort by the guest workers themselves to
influence the political process.
Since forming four months ago, members have raised $70,000, hired the
Washington firm Quinn, Gillespie & Associates to lobby on their
behalf, and eagle-eyed the evolution of arcane and complex immigration
The House passed a bill in December that did not address the H1B cap or the paperwork delays.
Desai, a software engineer for a Wilmington bank, said the proposal before the Senate could make the H1Bs’ plight worse.
While it would bring to 290,000 the annual number of
employer-sponsored green cards, more than double the current allotment,
the bill r eserves at least 87,000 for unskilled laborers who enter the
country on newly created temporary work visas.
The bill would raise to 10 percent the maximum share of green cards
available to applicants from any one nation, up from the current 7
percent. However, it eliminates an existing provision that gives guest
workers from India and China, which account for most H1Bs, access to
green cards left over from countries that don’t use up their quota.
Under the Senate plan, previously illegal workers who meet certain
conditions could apply for residency on their own. H1Bs would still need
an employer sponsor.
“It gives a lot of control to the employer,” said Amol Jakatdar, a
Yardley software engineer for a consulting firm that contracts him out,
most recently to Merck Pharma in New Jersey.
Allegations of second-class treatment of H1B holders are so common in
that state that the U.S. Labor Department is hiring an investigator to
focus on complaints by the guest workers, Kate Dugan, an agency
spokeswoman in Philadelphia, said.
In the last two years, the agency found that employers in 10 South
Jersey counties owed $376,900 in wages to 21 H1B workers. There have
been no complaints in Pennsylvania.
Advocates for limiting H1B visas argue that the foreign whiz kids
drag down wages for American professionals and that their quest to stay
in the country proves there is no such thing as a guest worker.
“It’s a misnomer,” said Steven Camarota, research director at the
Center for Immigration Studies, which favors immigration restrictions.
The H1B isn’t supposed to be “the bullpen for green cards,” Camarota said.
Other countries, meanwhile, are wooing the disaffected guest workers.
Faced with a high-tech labor shortage, New Zealand overhauled its laws
two years ago to give qualified workers resident status immediately. It
has lured 280 non-U.S. citizens, some from Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom also make it easier for
highly skilled immigrant laborers to resettle there. And India and China
are welcoming back talent they lost to the States.
A headhunter phoned Dilip Bearelly, a chief resident at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, with an offer in Australia.
The job would allow the Indian native to do research on hepatitis C that he can’t do here because he doesn’t have a green card.
“‘We’ll do everything for you,’” he said they pitched him. “‘The pay
will be comparable to the U.S., and you will not have any visa
If Washington does not address the green-card backlog soon, he said, “I’ll go.”
April 9th, 2006 | Category: AgonistWire, Labor
...and I am Sid Harth

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