H-1B visa issue not on priority, but to be part of immigration reforms package: US to India

Donald Trump
WASHINGTON: The US has told India in no uncertain terms that the H-1B visa issue+ is not a priority for the Donald Trump.

Earlier, the administration said it plans to issue an executive order to curtail the use of H-1B visas+ , but Indian government officials+ were told that these work visas would be dealt with only as part of a larger immigration reforms package.

“There was a sense that there is a recognition of the contribution of the Indian tech sector. Certainly this is not very much … not a priority of the (US) government. They are concerned with the immigration issue … most of the issues are quite different,” said visiting commerce secretary Rita Teotia to reporters at a news conference here.

“Nevertheless when it is addressed, it would be part of the overall immigration package,” Teotia added.

The commerce secretary, along with foreign secretary S Jaishankar+ , is currently in the US to meet top officials of the Trump administration and the Congressional leadership.

During their meetings with top US administration officials, including commerce secretary William Ross, Homeland Security secretary John Kelly and the Congressional leadership, the visiting Indian officials conveyed that H-1B is a “category of trade and services” and that it actually helps the American economy be more competitive. In the US context, H-1B is always seen as part of the immigration basket.

“If the Trump Administration’s intention is to bring back American companies to America and attract more foreign investment in America and therefore have more growth in the near term, then it was important growing America remains competitive. So, there would actually be (a) growing need for this partnership,” Jaishankar said.

In his first address to the US Congress earlier this week Trump appeared to have softened his stand on immigration when he said the US will now lean towards a merit-based regime.

“What I would remind you that the President himself in his address to the Congress preferred a merit-based approach to the subject. We heard across the board a lot of respect expressed for Indian skills in the United States,” Jaishankar said.

“We have certainly made our point quite forcefully both in the Congress and the Administration. We believe it has been met with a degree of understanding,” he said in response to a question.