US-India business lobby seeks freer movement of professionals

Washington, May 17 (IANS) The US-India Business Council (USIBC) has urged Congress to increase H1B visa caps and liberalise ease of travel for technology professionals while asking its 250 member companies to counter moves against outsourcing. In a swift reaction to what it called “unusual US Senatorial inquiries” into the use of H1B visas by nine Indian firms, the premier business advocacy seeking to strengthen US-India commercial ties Wednesday issued a “call to action” to its members.

USIBC, comprising US companies with investment interests in India and India’s top global companies, asked members to revitalise participation and interest in the Coalition for Economic Growth and American Jobs (CEGAJ), which it helped launch in 2004 during a backlash against outsourcing.

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“This precautionary move by USIBC to issue an alert is the result of unusual US Senatorial inquiries that were sent yesterday to a number of USIBC member-companies. The inquiries sought clarification as to the companies’ application for and use of H1B visas,” it said.

USIBC strongly supports expanding the H1B visa cap, as well as developing a new technology professional visa that will facilitate greater movement of technology professionals between the US and India.

USIBC has also been monitoring the recent explosion of legislation at the state level that would constrain outsourcing in varying ways, it said.

CEGAJ comprises the 3 million member companies including the US Chamber of Commerce, the USIBC, the Information Technology Association of America and the American Council of Life Insurers, among others. The Coalition’s mandate is to spread the word that American competitiveness requires global integration, including value-added IT enabled support from overseas.

Since the Coalition’s formation in 2004, USIBC and other like-minded associations through the CEGAJ Coalition have worked hard to educate Americans about the vital importance of being able to source talented work and services wherever they can be produced most efficiently, thereby enabling US companies to remain competitive on a global scale, USIBC said.

US companies have become extremely productive in the intervening years, and today the US economic rate of unemployment is at its lowest in history as a result. International trade in goods and services benefits vast numbers of working Americans, it said.

USIBC president Ron Somers, in his call to the US Congress to increase H1B visa caps and liberalise ease of travel for technology professionals, has pledged that USIBC will remain vigilant in its efforts to prevent a backlash against this ever-more important inter-dependent industry.

“USIBC will ratchet up its education campaign on Capitol Hill to highlight the benefits resulting from the robust commerce of a ‘flatter world’ economy. We will continue to push for greater movement of technology professionals, including the increase in the H1B visa cap, as well as the creation of a new technology professional visa.

These are essential elements needed to support the integration of our information economy, which must be on par with the US-India strategic partnership,” Somers said.

As the US Congress prepares to debate comprehensive immigration reforms, two US senators had Monday asked nine Indian companies that used nearly 20,000 of the available H1B visas last year to explain their use of the special visa programme.

“More and more it appears that companies are using H1B visas to displace qualified, American workers,” Republican Chuck Grassley and Democratic Richard Durbin, both members of the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Refugees suggested.