MUMBAI: Indian software companies could step up sponsorship of coveted US green cards for staff as part of tactics to mitigate the effects of a planned US law to make work visas harder and costlier to obtain. By doing so they can expand the pool of employees with access to work in the United States, analysts said, giving Indian companies greater leeway as they try and cope with the effects of a planned law with restrictive visa provisions.
The reason companies are planning to increase green-card sponsorships is linked to rules which govern the way visa allocation is counted in a bill passed by the US Senate some weeks ago. The Senate bill imposes caps on the number of work visas companies can seek every year, a limit which depends on the number of H-1B visas for specialty occupations a company already has.
Since the bill excludes 'intending immigrants' who have applied for green cards while counting the number of work visas a company owns, Indian firms are seeing great merit in the idea of sponsoring visa-holders for green cards.
"We are already ramping up hiring of workers in the US and will start offering more green card sponsorships to our employees," said PR Chandrasekhar, CEO of Hexaware Technologies, which is based in Mumbai. "With these steps we think any impact of the rules on us would be very limited."
The US restricts the number of H-1B visas to 65,000 every year. The Senate bill will raise that to 1.15 lakh. However, it mandates higher fees for additional visa applications from companies where over 50% of US staff are already on a temporary work visa. Such companies will also be prevented from placing their staff at client locations in what is known in industry parlance as outplacement.
This will make it harder for IT firms which depend on such a model in the US, from where they get nearly 60% of their revenue. "Converting visa holders to green card holders would be a key strategy to mitigate the impact of the bill. If a company puts 90% of the eligible employees on the path to receive a green card, it would exempt them from the outplacement clause," IDFC analyst Hitesh Shah, who said most IT companies would consider this path.
A green card is an authorisation to live and work permanently in the United States. To be eligible, the company has to offer employees a permanent job in the United States and apply on their behalf. Unlike a visa, the green card, once granted, frees employees from being dependent on their companies to stay and work in the US. Including lawyer and processing fees, a green card could cost companies $8,000- $10,000 (Rs 4.8 - 6 lakh) and take several years. Between October 2011 and September 2012, Cognizant filed 1,147 green card petitions, the second most after Microsoft, according to data from Los Angeles-headquartered Myvisajobs.com.
During the same period, HCL Technologies filed 81, while Wipro filed 80 petitions, according to the site. Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services, HCL Technologies and Cognizant declined to comment. However, analysts familiar with their thinking said these companies are also actively considering more green card applications.
"More green cards and US acquisitions are options but there are others including looking at how much work is doing in the US versus in India in some contracts," said Prashant Ranade, chief executive offficer of Nasdaq-listed Syntel. "We are keeping a close eye on the proceedings and will take steps as required." The proposed changes have been passed by the US Senate but the House of Representatives is considering a different set of bills, which are milder and less harmful for the Indian IT than the Senate bill.
The restrictive visa rules are coming at a time when Indian software services exporters are seeing signs of demand revival in the US. Even while they are taking evasive measures to minimise the negative impact of restrictive US visa policies, analysts said that the green card path is not without perils.
Sourse : Times of India