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November 6, 1997



Once again the US Congress is considering a bill
which seeks to hurt India's software talent export.

The Indian software industry has expressed serious concern over a bill in the US Congress which, if enacted, would adversely affect software exports to the US.

The bill, seeking to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act of the US, will increase the financial and administrative costs of hiring Indian software
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professionals according to the National Association of Software and Service Companies.

"The United States is the biggest market for Indian software exports. The increased burden placed on a US company when hiring an Indian professional would hamper the free flow of software trade between India and US," NASSCOM Executive Director Dewang Mehta has said.

In the event of the proposed bill being made into a law, the projected software export of $1 billion to the US is expected to be hit sharply.

"The bill is discriminatory in nature as it tries to differentiate between an Indian and US employee, India's competitive advantage in software would be stifled by these kinds of non-tariff barriers being put up by developed countries," Mehta said.

The bill seeks to split the existing H-1B employers. A 'dependent' employer is defined as one who has a workforce composed of 10 per cent or more H-1B employees (foreign nationals). If the bill is enacted, a dependent employer will have to pay a special fee to a private fund if he wants to hire a foreign nationals.

The private fund would be dedicated to increasing competitiveness of US workers and reducing the dependency on hiring foreign nationals in the industry. The fee would be based on percentage of the workers' compensation and will increase every year.

In addition, the bill seeks to require a dependent employer to demonstrate that he had taken or will take "timely, significant and effective" steps to recruit and retain US workers. Career development programmes for US employees are also mandated.

The employer will have to demonstrate that the above steps have lessened his dependence on the foreign workers by proving that his total number of foreign employees decreased by at least 10 per cent for two consecutive years.

The bill also seeks to limit the maximum stay for H-1B visa holders from the current six years to three years. The employer will be required to attest that the has not, for the next 90 days, laid off or displace any US worker, following the hiring of a foreign national.

Though there has been an increase in offshore development in the past few years, 60 per cent of the country's total software exports to the US is still largely dependent on onsite development.

In the event of the bill being enacted it would put a spoke in the wheels of software exports to the US as the delay in the issuance of visas and increased costs would make US firms think twice before hiring foreign software professionals, Mehta claimed.

- Compiled from the Indian media

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