India’s Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj (r) with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson before a meeting in New Delhi, Oct. 25. (Vijay Verma/PTI)
India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj raised with her U.S. counterpart Rex Tillerson the issue of H-1B visas, Oct. 25, and said nothing should be done by the Trump administration which may “adversely” impact India’s interests.
She also talked about India’s two-pronged approach to avert any possibility of the passage of bills pending in the U.S. Congress which recommends changes in H-1B visas, popular among Indian IT professionals.
“We have also discussed the very significant contribution to the U.S. economy of Indian skilled professionals who travel and work under H-1B and L-1 visa programs. I have also sought Secretary Tillerson’s support for resolution of long-pending issue of totalization and asked that nothing such should be done by U.S. which adversely affects India’s interests,” Swaraj said.
She said India was engaged with officials of the Trump administration as well as U.S. Congressmen to avert any possibility of the passage of bills but asserted that there was no change in H-1B visas as of Oct. 25.
Swaraj, addressing a joint press conference with Secretary of State Tillerson, also said that she has sought his support in resolving the long-pending issue of totalization.
India has been seeking a totalization agreement aimed at protecting benefit rights of its workers and short-term IT and other services providers in the U.S.
The pact is expected to stop Indian IT companies from paying millions of dollars to the American exchequer annually towards social security payment.
Holding that people-to-people contacts have played a critical role in the development of relations between the two democracies, Swaraj said this is most evident in the “mutually-beneficial digital partnership,” driven by skilled professionals.
The discussion comes at a time when the Trump administration has made the renewal of non-immigrant visas such as H-1B and L-1 more difficult, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) saying that the burden of proof in establishing eligibility is, at all times, on the petitioner.
There have been concerns in India over the Trump administration’s move to impose stricter regulations on immigration and visas, especially H-1B and L-1 visas.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also raised these concerns with President Donald Trump in July this year.
Tillerson was in India as part of his five-nation visit.