Indian Software Firms To Lobby Bush To Increase Visa Quota

Indian software firms said Feb. 21 they would lobby U.S. President George W. Bush during his March visit to double the visa quota for Indian information technology professionals. India employs 700,000 software professionals, up from 7,000 a decade ago, and many of them work abroad using special visas on contracts won by local technology companies.

The National Association of Software Services Companies (NASSCOM), India's top software lobby, said the annual limit of 65,000 H1-B visas was too low and wants it doubled. "We are concerned with the existing cap on H1-B visas, which continue to trouble us. This is something even the U.S. corporations are concerned about and share with us," NASSCOM president Kiran Karnik said.

Karnik said the number of visas needed to be doubled to bridge the "demand-supply gap." "Let the market forces to be the deciding factor as the Indian IT industry is the major user of the H1-B visas," Karnik said.

The software body said it would also bring up the issue of Indian professionals in the U.S. paying taxes for social security as they do not work in the country long enough to reap any benefits. Karnik suggested the social security tax could be refunded when the workers left the country.

He said NASSCOM would also ask Bush to speed up the process of issuing visas for which interviews currently take three to six months. The U.S. is India's largest market for software services. U.S. companies, citing a shortage of skilled technology workers, have lobbied to raise the number of visas by 30,000 and the proposal is pending before Congress.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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