The visit of Jennifer McIntyre, Consul-General of the U.S. Consulate General in Chennai, to the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FKCCI) on Thursday saw many members of the trade body expressing displeasure with her country’s immigration laws.
Leading the dissenting voices, Manoj Palrecha, executive chairman of the FKCCI’s International Trade Committee, raised concerns about the proposed U.S. immigration Bill that seeks to put a cap on the number of work visas that can be given to employees of companies with business interests in the U.S.
If the Bill becomes law, a company will be banned from obtaining additional visas for its employees, starting 2014, if 75 per cent of its staff has H-1B or L-1 visas. In 2015, the Bill proposes to bring down the ceiling to 65 per cent and further to 50 per cent in 2016.
“In most Indian IT companies, 50 to 80 per cent of the staff hold H-1B or L-1 visas,” Mr. Palrecha said. He also spoke about a clause in the Bill that stipulates that employers post a detailed job opening on the Department of Labour’s website for at least 30 days before hiring an H1-B applicant to fill that position. “This, in our view, will increase lead time for execution and will reduce competitiveness of Indian IT firms,” he said on behalf of the FKCCI.
He also said that if the Bill goes through, the cost of doing business in the U.S. would increase and that may discourage customers from seeking services from Indian companies.
On a brighter note, he sought to convey the Indian side’s appreciation of the efforts of U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, who is an advocate of a liberal immigration policy toward high-skilled workers and seen as a champion of the Indian-American population in the U.S.
Other FKCCI members too had misgivings about the immigration policies of the U.S. During the interactive session, a member said that tourists were given 10-year visas whereas businessmen such as himself were given visas for only one year.
He also said the process of getting a visa at the U.S. Consulate in Chennai was “traumatic” as he was made to wait on the footpath outside for hours before his turn came. He said that those seeking to do business with U.S. companies should be given preferential treatment over tourists. Another member said that the rejection rate of visa applications was “unacceptably high”.
Responding to these concerns, Ms. McIntyre asked the members to make a formal representation in writing and assured them that the grievances would receive priority redress.