India’s top IT companies have known that change was coming, and not just in the form of an election result in their biggest market. They must now embrace it
Fears over stricter visa rules, most recently stemming from a potential executive order by US President Donald Trump in America, the Indian IT sector’s largest market, aren’t new. India and the US have always had a contentious relationship over India exporting IT staff on a temporary basis on non-immigrant visas, primarily the H1-B, and access to the Indian market for various American businesses.
Industry executives and analysts alike feel, this time round, however, a combination of factors are coming together to accelerate the change that the sector has always known was coming. Restrictions on visa rules, then, will be one of the multiple problems that the industry will have to surmount more urgently.
In the past, India’s top IT outsourcers, as they are often called, have relied on exporting staff from India to work at overseas client offices, for periods ranging from a few months to a few years. Typically, such staff would hold the H1-B visa, a non-immigrant visa. For example, Infosys has a bit over 14,600 H1-B holders, based on its filings with the US capital markets regulator, Securities Exchange Commission.
President Trump’s administration has drafted an order that as law “prioritises the protection of American workers,” Bloomberg reported on Monday citing a copy of the draft it had seen. Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka has previously said he believes that President Trump is a “business-friendly” leader. Infosys declined to comment on the ongoing reports about the executive order. While reports of this draft have provided the trigger for the latest round of noise on how the Indian IT industry will be hurt, the order isn’t alone.