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H1B visa row: US industry body opposes proposal to introduce stricter norms

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    The move to end extension of H-1B visas would be "bad policy" and is contrary to the goals of a merit-based immigration system, the US Chamber of Commerce said on Saturday over the Trump administration's reported plan that could result in self-deportation of around 700,000 Indians.

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    The H-1B programme offers temporary US visas that allow companies to hire highly-skilled foreign professionals working in areas with shortages of qualified American workers. But since taking office last January, President Donald Trump has been cracking down on the scheme.

    The proposal to curb H-1B visa extensions which was part of Mr Trump's 'Buy American, Hire American' initiative that he vowed to launch during his election campaign trail, is being drafted by the Department of Homeland Security, reports said.

    "It would be tremendously bad policy to tell highly-skilled individuals who are applying for permanent residency and have been working in the US for several years that they are no longer welcome," a US Chambers of Commerce spokesperson said.

    "This policy would harm American business, our economy, and the country. Further, it is inconsistent with the goals of a more merit-based immigration system," the spokesperson said.

    He was responding to reports that the administration is discussing a move to curb extensions to H-1B visa holders who have completed their two-three years of H-1B visa terms and have been receiving extensions because of their pending Green Card application status.

    Such a move would impact some 500,000 to 750,000 highly-skilled Indian technology professionals, academicians and research scholars in the US and result in their moving back to India.

    Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi hoped the administration "immediately rejects" the proposal.

    "I fully support efforts to reform the H-1B system, and while our priority must continue to be improving advanced training for our domestic workforce, ending H-1B visa extensions would kneecap our economy and encourage companies to further offshore jobs, instead of making those investments here," he said.

    "It would also tear families apart and hurt businesses here. I hope the administration immediately rejects this proposal," Mr Krishnamoorthi said.

    The US is currently facing a skills gap of over six million jobs, and companies are struggling to find talent to fill these open positions, he said.

    "Educators and employers need to be working together to ensure that we are developing the skills at home in America to fill the job openings domestically, both today and in the coming years."

    "My bill to reauthorise career and technical education programmes would help to close this skills gap, and the Senate needs to take up this bill that passed the House unanimously last June," he said.


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