Washington : The US has said that it greatly values investments by Indian companies and wants to see bilateral business ties remain strong, days after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley raised the issue of tightening of the H-1B visa regime with his American counterpart Steven Mnuchin. "We want to see US-India business-to-business ties remain strong," State Department Acting Spokesman Mark Toner told reporters at his daily news conference.
He was responding to questions on the ongoing review of H-1B visas by the Trump Administration and its impact on the Indian IT companies, who are heavily dependent on it. "We greatly value Indian companies' continued investment in the US economy, which also, of course, supports thousands of US jobs," Toner said.
"With respect to any new requirements on visas, I'd have to check and see if that's been updated," he said, adding that under the current government, the US has been looking at ways to strengthen the processes like visa interview and admission processes. Toner said that this had been the case from the beginning of the Trump administration and certainly with respect to immigration and with refugee flows.
"Those processes are ongoing," he said.
On being asked about the visa review process, Toner said, "It's important to remember that this is always a part of how our consular bureau works and our consular officers work overseas, and our embassies and missions work overseas, and that is we're always reviewing the processes that are in place to issue these visas and finding ways to strengthen them, because we want to ensure the security of the American people."
During his US visit, Jaitley on Saturday had raised the H-1B visa issue with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and highlighted the contribution Indian companies and professionals were making to the US economy. He had also raised the issue with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross earlier. President Donald Trump had signed an executive order earlier this month for tightening the rules of the H-1B visa programme to stop its 'abuse', a decision that would impact India's USD 150 billion IT industry. The Indian IT industry had expressed serious concerns over this as these visas were mainly used by domestic IT professionals for short-term work in America.
The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialised fields. Indian technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year for their US operations. The US market accounts for about 60 per cent of the revenue of the Indian IT industry.
Reforming the H-1B visa system was one of the major election promises of Trump. As per several US reports, a majority of the H-1B visas every year are grabbed by Indian IT professionals. India accounts for the highest pool of qualified IT professionals, whose services go a long way in making American companies globally competitive.
The US had earlier this month also accused top Indian IT firms TCS and Infosys of unfairly cornering the lion's share of H-1B visas by putting extra tickets in the lottery system.