The H-1B visa programme has not undergone any fundamental change, a senior US diplomat said here today, seeking to allay the apprehension among Indians that amendments to it would harm their interest. There is no change in the processing of H-1B visas from the (US) Consulate (in Mumbai), USA' Mumbai-based Consul General Edgard D Kagan told reporters.
"There is a sense in India that the changes in H-1B can have a big impact in India. We understand that and we have heard that message from the Indian government and recognised that it is important here," he said.
"We would ask Indians to recognize that this is not about India and it is not about US-India relationship. This is about broader policy that affects countries around the world from American perspective and therefore it is very important to get it right," he added.
The H1-B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
The Trump administration last week announced a new policy that makes very tough the procedure of issuing H-1B visas to those to be employed at one or more third-party work sites, a move that will hugely impact Indian IT companies and their employees.
Under the new policy, a company would have to go the extra mile to prove that its H-1B employee at a third-party work site has specific and non-qualifying speculative assignments in speciality occupation.
"Clearly, India is the largest single beneficiary of the programme. But I think when Indians look at H-1B and look at the changes of the programme they believe this is about US- India relationship. But I can assure you from American perspective that is not the case," Kagan said.
The American Consul General was responding to a query regarding concerns over changes in the H-1B visa programme.
"There is a misconception about H-1B programme. People in India believe that H1B programme is about India. For America, it is a global programme. So H-1Bs are not just for Indians, it is a programme accessible and open to people from around the world," the diplomat said.
He said the H-1B programme in the US is viewed as a global programme and the concerns are about making it sure that the companies do not abuse people who receive H-1B visas.
"So tightening of some of the procedures to make sure the people who receive the H-1B visas are being treated as they are supposed to by the companies. And also making it sure the programme is working as it was intended to work," Kagan said.
"To be fair, we have always looked very closely and made sure that there is no fraud and that the people meet right qualification for the H-1B.
"There have been adjustments on how programme is implemented and designed to ensure that there is no fraud and abuse in US. But what media has focused is on changes having to do with how the petitioning process has been handled in the US.
"However, we are not having details about it as we do not handle it at the consulate. But the continuing goal of the programme is that it works as it was designed to address the real needs in the US," the Consul General said.