Not received any communication on H-1B visa cap from US: govt

New Delhi: India has not received any communication from the US on its reported decision to consider caps on H-1B work visa for nations that mandate storing of data locally, the foreign ministry said Thursday.

India had last year mandated payment firms to store customer data exclusively in the country without creating mirror sites overseas. Some US firms are opposed to this as it would require them to make an additional investment.

Irked by such requirements, the US is considering restrictions on H-1B visa that allow foreign professionals to work in that country, according to a media report.

At a media briefing on the upcoming visit of US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo from June 25 to 27, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said no communication has been received on the issue from the US.

“We have not heard anything officially from the US government. We continue to reiterate and engage with the US government on this matter,” he said.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in April last year asked payment firms to ensure their data are stored exclusively on local servers, setting a tight six-month deadline for compliance. That deadline was said to have been missed by some foreign firms, including credit card giants Visa and Mastercard.

Sources in the commerce ministry said no communication on the visa cap has been received from the US.

IT industry body Nasscom cautioned that any move by the US to limit visas for tech workers will weaken American companies that depend on these work permits to fill skills gaps and put jobs at risk.

Nasscom also highlighted that Indian nationals accounting for a large chunk of approved H-1B visas is a “testimony” to their skill-set, and pointed out that a “vast majority” of these visas were being sponsored by global and US multinational companies.

The statement came after a report said US was mulling 10-15 per cent cap on H-1B visa for nations that compel foreign companies to store data locally. Such a move gains significance amid a row between the US and India over trade and tariffs.

Nasscom – which represents Indian IT majors like TCS, Infosys, and Wipro as well as smaller tech firms – noted that there is no official confirmation yet on the development from the US government on the matter and that it is awaiting clarity from official channels.

“If US policy makes it more difficult to hire advanced tech workers, it will only weaken the US companies that depend on them to help fill their skills gaps, put jobs at risk, creating pressure to send technology services abroad,” Nasscom said in a statement.

Such a move, if implemented, would have a major impact on the over USD 150 billion Indian IT sector that gets a lion’s share of its revenues from the North American market. Indian IT firms use H-1B visas to send staff to client locations in the US.