Indian techies chasing American dream never had it this bad

Bangaluru: The American dreams of Indian tech workers seem to be fading away with both their employers and the Trump Administration sending out “travel advisory” kind of messages on a regular basis.

A new policy memo issued by the US government gives blanket permission to USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) to use discretion and deny H-1B visa applications outright without offering any explanation, even without asking for a RFE (request for evidence) or without even issuing a NOID (notice of intent to deny).

The new visa guidance is effective September 11, 2018 and applies to all applications, petitions, and requests received after the effective date, said a copy of the memo.

What’s making the situation worse for a large number of techies who have been waiting for onsite opportunities in the US is that their employers are not willing to fork out extra bucks to pay their staff on-site.

Indian tech firms used to underpay their Indian employees in the US, until a parity pay was made mandatory by the Trump Administration. For instance, if an American tech worker gets paid $80,000 per annum for a particular job, an onsite immigrant worker from India for the same job gets paid only 60 per cent of that amount.

Vivek Tandon, CEO of EB-5 BRICS, a visa advisory firm based in California, said, “Denials are on the rise. The new regulations will impact the business plans, project execution schedules and hiring strategies of Indian IT firms. They are no more allowed to underpay their employees in the US by undercutting the US labour market.’’

Indian on-site workers were always paid a discounted salary by their employers, including tier I tech players. Trump sealed the root of this exploitation by making prevailing wage a mandatory for all workers of the same job, said an immigration professional employed at a leading IT firm who doesn’t want to be named.

As per Stella Nagesh, Bangalore-based immigration expert, “Most IT firms in India do not follow wage mapping. Clients agree to pay them an ex account and they in turn pay their employees, but only a discounted salary. That’s why a document submitted to USCIS on behalf of an on-site employee will have a salary figure, while other documents of the same employee will have another figure which is much lower. Employees have been always aware of this undercutting. But they remained silent because they wanted to work in the US and enjoy life under a much better environment.’’

So, the US will remain a spot in the Google map for a large number of techies in India as number of on-site requirements coming to India will be very few, said BS Murthy, CEO of Leadship Capital.  The best way to beat this scenario, for techies, could be by excelling in digital technologies and data sciences.

FC met a bunch of techies from different companies. Most of them believe the US window is more or less closed for them unless some major changes are brought to regulations.

“I used to travel to the US at least twice a year. I would often hear from colleagues about their US on-site US travel schedules, but that’s simply not there anymore,’’ said Sunita Agarwal, software engineer employed at a leading software firm.

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