Friday, 15 September 2017

Not only US, other countries too restrict Indian IT professionals.

The US and other countries have cut down on visas given to IT professionals.


Not only US, other countries too restrict Indian IT professionals.

The woes of Indian information technology companies are not limited to the US and extend from Australia to Canada as they not only have to grapple with visa curbs but also obscure rules that are open to interpretation by local authorities.

Following the concerns brought out by Nasscom in a study, the government has started flagging the hurdles, many of which are against the commitments given by these countries at the World Trade Organisation or in trade agreements with India. The study has brought out the fact that there is no match between the commitments given and the visa issued.

The report comes at a time when India is seeking a permanent agreement for trade facilitation in services. Separately, it is pushing for liberal rules in Asean and other countries such as China, Australia and New Zealand, under the regional comprehensive economic partnership agreement, which will create one of the world's largest free trade areas.

These countries are, however, reluctant to ease the rules, but are seeking sharp duty cuts for goods imported into India. What makes it easier for other countries not to honour their commitments is the absence of any clarity on the number of visas that they have agreed to. Pointing to the US, Nasscom has said that it is the only country that partially mentions the visa category, H1, under WTO's agreement on trade in services (GATS) but there is nothing on offer for the information, communication and technology category.

Then, there are other conditions such as high fees to dilute the commitments. Some rules could even be tweaked by countries. For example, Indonesia had notified a rule allowing one visa for every 10 local workers hired. Other complaints revolve around the duration of the visa and the time taken to issue it, which can be long, and can often come with quotas. What makes life more difficult for Indian workers is the fact that many countries have not signed (and some are reluctant) social security agreements which will allow for contributions to be transferred once the employee returns to India.

There are other issues which have stalled the Indian IT sector's expansion drive, such as outdated definitions, said a government official. For instance, there is very little clarity on the definitions of contractual service providers, independent professionals and inter-corporate transfers, which results in lack of confidence among companies.

The industry also has to deal with subjective and discretionary elements of the commitments that have been given, resulting in interpretations that are only meant to block access.


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