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IT sector needs to work more to educate US policymakers on the mutual benefits of strong India-US trade relations in the software services market, industry body Nasscom said today. This is important as in some cases those “benefits and the actual workings of the visa programs are not well understood”, Nasscom President R Chandrasekhar said.

The comments come after Nasscom took a delegation to Washington DC (February 27-March 2) to discuss issues like clampdown on work visas and flow of skilled manpower between the two nations.

“From recent meetings, it is clear that IT sector has more work to do in educating US policymakers on the mutual benefits of strong India-US trade in IT services… In some cases, those benefits and the actual workings of the visa programs are not well understood,” Chandrasekhar said.

Over the past few months, there have been concerns over the protectionist stance taken by the US administration under President Donald Trump. The US accounts for about 60 per cent of the revenues of Indian IT services firms. While India has been pressing for a fair approach, a number of steps have been proposed by the new administration that is likely to impact the USD 110 Indian IT exports market.

Last week, US temporarily suspended the expedited premium processing of H-1B visas that will lead to process delays for Indian IT firms seeking to send employees on urgent projects. Chandrasekhar said he remains hopeful that further dialogue between government and business leaders in both nations will lead to a better understanding of the high-skill visa issues, which will in turn inform “constructive reforms”.

“We appreciated the openness of the policymakers and their advisors to engage in substantive, candid discussions,” he said. Specific topics of discussion included the H-1B visa program, which faces calls for new restrictions by some members of Congress and allies of President Trump. The delegation met officials like Darrell Issa and Zoe Lofgren, influential members of Congress who have sponsored legislation on the issue.

Nasscom also pushed for a level-playing field, saying any new requirements aimed at protecting US workers should be applied to all visa sponsors. Most of the existing legislative and administrative proposals would not actually protect American workers, since the proposed restrictions would be applicable only to a small group of companies that account for a minority of new visas issued, it added. Any changes in visa regime may result in higher operational costs and shortage of skilled workers for the Indian outsourcing industry.

As per reports, US President Donald Trump is said to be preparing to issue executive orders on H1-B visas, the visas primarily used by Indian IT companies to send Indian professionals to the US. Also, a legislation has been introduced in the US House of Representatives which among other things calls for more than doubling the minimum salary of H-1B visa holders to $130,000.