India, worried that outsourcing of jobs could become an issue in the US presidential elections, is taking steps to ensure there is no repeat of 2004 when failed Democrat candidate John Kerry raised the bogey. “We have asked our diplomats and lobbyists to impress on potential presidential candidates to not make outsourcing a major issue,” a source said on Tuesday after two US senators questioned the number of H-1B visas being issued to Indians.

Republican Charles Grassley and Democrat Richard Durbin have asked Indian companies such as Infosys, Wipro and TCS for details of their workforce as they feel foreign companies are displacing qualified American workers by abusing the H-1B visa programme. “Supporters claim the goal of the H-1B programme is to help the American economy by allowing companies to hire foreign workers. The reality is too many H-1B visas are being used to facilitate outsourcing of American jobs to other countries,” they said.

The H-1B programme, launched in 1990, allows foreign scientists, engineers and technologists to be employed for up to six years in the US, after which they must obtain permanent residency or return home. Around 65,000 H-1B visas have been cleared for this year. India is awaiting a response from the United States about its proposal to approve 130,000 more H-1B visas, increasing the total to 195,000.

India has made a formal request to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to this effect. Grassley and Durbin recently introduced a legislation that would overhaul the H-1B and L-1 visa programmes to give priority to American workers and crack down on unscrupulous employers who deprive qualified Americans of high-skill jobs.

Their statement said they had also written to Patni Computer Systems, iflex solutions, Satyam Computer, Larsen & Toubro Infotech Ltd., Tech Mahindra and Mphasis Corp. Kerry raised hackles in 2004 when he criticised large US companies for moving their call centre services to India.

According to agency reports, India’s IT industry body Nasscom said it does not see the H-1B visa issue as one related to immigration, but as something concerned with international trade. It said that work permits and intra-company transfers should not be mixed and confused with immigration.

Work permits are primarily a tool for facilitating trade and allow global companies to bring key staff to the US on temporary assignments, it said. Source: Hindusdan Times