India seeks tripling of H1-B visas

By agencies   |   Friday, 24 June 2005, 07:00 Hrs   |    1 Comments
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NEW DELHI: In a move that has significance for Indian professionals seeking to work in the U.S., the government has made a formal proposal to the WTO demanding that the yearly quota of H1B visas be increased to 195,000 from the current ceiling of 65,000.

If conceded, the move could turn out to be a boon for IT and other skilled professionals heading for the U.S..

In the ongoing WTO talks, India has made enhancement of the H1B quota as a key bargaining chip for offering concessions on market access for industrial products and farm goods, highly placed government officials said.

Even if the U.S. partly concedes the Indian demand, it will be a big step forward in liberalization of norms governing movement of natural persons-as work permits are called in WTO parlance.

A formal proposal to this effect has been submitted by India and response from the US is awaited, the sources said. Under the ongoing talks on liberalization of services, negotiations are taking place through the ‘requests and offers’ mode, which requires every WTO member-nation to seek market access in specific areas from other countries.

Similarly, willingness to open up specific sectors is also conveyed to all other WTO members. A number of top U.S. companies like Microsoft are also keen to see increase in H1B visas, as this would help them in getting highly qualified manpower from India.

Most of the 65,000 H1B visas issued every year go to Indians and the quota gets exhausted quickly, sometimes within a day as American companies line up their plans for the whole year in advance. In view of heavy demand, the U.S. allowed an additional quota of 20,000 visas for the current year.

Liberalization of visas is a key demand of India in current negotiations, with the U.S. and the EU being the key markets of interest. While the services market is divided into four categories, India has emphasized on Mode 4, which relates to liberalization of visas and Mode 1, which is important for outsourcing as it deals with cross-border supply of services.

Apart from techies, the other beneficiaries of H1B visas include lawyers, accountants, teachers and healthcare professionals.

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