Protect India’s interests on H-1B visa issue: Swaraj to

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New Delhi:¬†External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today raised with her US counterpart Rex Tillerson the issue of H-1B visas, and said nothing should be done by the Trump administration which may “adversely” impact India’s interests.

She also talked about India’s two-pronged approach to avert any possibility of the passage of bills pending in the US Congress which recommends changes in H-1B visas, popular among Indian IT professionals.

“We have also discussed the very significant contribution to the US economy of Indian skilled professionals who travel and work under H-1B and L-1 visa programs. I have also sought Secretary Tillerson’s support for resolution of long-pending issue of totalisation and asked that nothing such should be done by US which adversely affects India’s interests,” Swaraj said.

She said India was engaged with officials of the Trump administration as well as US Congressmen to avert any possibility of the passage of bills but asserted that there was no change as of today in H-1B visas.

Swaraj, addressing a joint press conference with Secretary of State Tillerson, also said that she has sought his support in resolving the long-pending issue of totalisation.

India has been seeking a totalisation agreement aimed at protecting benefit rights of its workers and short-term IT and other services providers in the US.

The pact is expected to stop Indian IT companies from paying millions of dollars to the American exchequer annually towards social security payment.

Holding that people-to-people contacts have played a critical role in the development of relations between the two democracies, Swaraj said this is most evident in the “mutually-beneficial digital partnership”, driven by skilled professionals.

Today’s discussion comes at a time when the Trump administration has made the renewal of non-immigrant visas such as H-1B and L-1 more difficult, with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) saying that the burden of proof in establishing eligibility is, at all times, on the petitioner.

There have been concerns in India over the Trump administration’s move to impose stricter regulations on immigration and visas, especially H-1B and L-1 visas.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also raised these concerns with President Donald Trump in July this year.

Tillerson, who is in India as part of his five-nation visit, will leave tomorrow.

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