Wipro may have dropped Donald Trump from its list of risk factors, but for Indian IT professionals and their spouses in the US, the President's policies remain a big threat. With Trump moving to tighten work visa rules, including to rescind the H4 employment authorisation that allows spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in the US, many of them are moving back to India, or staring at the possibility of that.
Recruitment firms say in the past one year they have seen a 100% jump in the CVs they were getting from Indian IT professionals working in the US and their spouses. They even have added a new profile of job seekers - spouses of Indian IT professionals, according to firms like TeamLease, Randstad, Adecco, ManpowerGroup and ABC Consultants.
For many those who may be forced to leave the US, the situation is more complicated than just finding a job elsewhere. An IT professional, who lives with his techie wife in Atlanta, said he had been in the US for over 10 years now on an H-1B visa. While the couple remain Indian citizens, their children were born in the US and are American citizens. "We fear we may never get our Green Cards and what happens if we lose our jobs? Our children are born US citizens, but we will have to leave the country," said the techie who was unwilling to be named.
Another software expert, who moved from Kerala to Canada and later got a job in the US under the NAFTA professional visa programme that allows citizens of Canada and Mexico to work in the US, is now looking for options. His worry is about Trump's threat of withdrawing from NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). "I have been in the US for three years but if NAFTA is revoked, I will lose my visa. While I can go back to Canada, job market opportunities in the US are better," he said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.
While this IT expert could go back to Canada, for most, the only option is to return home. And, they are scanning the opportunities here.
"We received approximately 1,000 CVs from the beginning of this year, which is roughly double of what we saw last year for the same period," said Paul Dupuis, managing director of Randstad India.
In fact, India's IT companies have also been flagging the risk of the changing visa policies in the US. In fiscal 2017, Wipro had explicitly named Trump as a risk to the business. In its latest annual report filed with the US regulators, however, the Bengalurubased company didn't name him as a risk but highlighted the threats from the global political environment.
Till last year, there was hardly any flow of job seeking Indians from the US, said Mayank Patel, director of permanent placement and professional staffing at Adecco Group India. "Last year, only those Indians were returning who had some personal emergency but this year, the number of CVs has definitely seen a 2x and 3x growth."
Canada and Mexico remain the first preferences for Indian IT talent and their spouses who are currently facing US visa curbs, followed by India. "With IT majors setting up operations in Mexico and Canada, many Indian IT professionals want to park themselves here," said Manmeet Singh, president of Experis that handles the IT sector at ManpowerGroup India.
Almost half the applications for IT jobs at Manpower-Group is coming from H-1B visa holders, unlike a year ago when only 20% was from this cluster. "The bigger threat to the stability of the Indian techie diaspora is the revocation of the working status for those on H4 dependent visas," Dupuis of Randstad India said. According to him, this could affect about 70,000 families working in the US, many of whom might be forced to repatriate themselves to India.
Manpower Group and Team-Lease also confirm over 70,000 families were being impacted in the short run due to changes in US' visa regime.
Some IT professionals are choosing to stay on in US. However, their spouses who are on H4 permits are in the process of relocating, recruiters said. In addition to H4 visa holders, Indian IT professionals with less than six years of experience are also hunting for job back home, as well as in countries like Sweden and Poland apart from Mexico and Canada.
ABC Consultants has seen an about 50% jump in CVs from Indian IT professionals in the US with work experience of 2-6 years. "At least 5 lakh Indians have been impacted by the US visa restrictions," ABC Consultants director Ratna Gupta said, adding that many of them were looking for other visas like EB5, L1A, or choosing other countries. "Quite a few are exploring India-based opportunities."
Rituparna Chakraborty, cofounder of TeamLease Services, said those who moved to the US in the last three-four years were vulnerable and were on their way back to India, apart from H4 holders.
H-1B visas are issued for three years, and an extension for three years was almost a given. But the process of extension has now become difficult. The new rules imply one may not even now get the initial full three years. The shorter durations may even make transition from H-1B to a Green Card next to impossible.
Based on H-1B visa data obtained from the US Citizenship and immigration Services, Tata Consultancy Services received 2,312 H-1B visas in 2017, about half the number in 2015. Infosys saw a 57% drop and Wipro 60% in visa allotments in the same period, with only Tech Mahindra among the top seven India-based IT companies witnessing an increase in the number.