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Why Indian businesses can make out like bandits thanks to Trump’s visa ban

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Why should Indians capitalize on President Trump’s ban on H-1B visas? Well, because India is the biggest source of H-1B visas, and Indian business enterprises may be major beneficiaries of the policy.

Indian business enterprises are annually issuing 2 million H-1B visas — equal to 18 percent of the total number of H-1B visas issued last year — and are responsible for nearly 80 percent of H-1B foreign workers in the United States.

Indian government data estimate that 80 percent of H-1B foreign workers in the United States are the direct product of Indian firms.

What’s more, Indians, on average, hold 23 percent of U.S. patents and 81 percent of the science and technology patents. (In contrast, U.S. companies employ a much smaller percentage of the scientist and technology wizards, with 54 percent, compared with 51 percent last year.)

The total value of intellectual property claimed by Indian firms (both FDI and foreign direct investment) from U.S. universities also crosses the $1 billion mark each year, according to data from the Institute of International Education. There are 78 Indian-origin firms in the top 500 pharmaceutical companies in the United States.

Sure, there are drawbacks, too.

Indian business enterprises do not have to provide annual progress reports for all their H-1B foreign workers. It is possible that those workers, who are in fact employed, do not keep themselves updated on how their work is progressing. Also, there may be oversubscription of these H-1B visas as Indian firms scramble to fill a shortage of skilled workers in the country.

Apart from this and other constraints, however, Indian enterprises can benefit from Trump’s H-1B limit — as long as they can obtain visas without falling in the category for a below-60-year-old H-1B worker.

But wait! India’s people don’t need to worry too much about these restrictions. Indian companies and government officials are quick to assure that Indian residents will still be able to work in the United States. They say that Indian-Americans — who are estimated to make up about five percent of the U.S. population — can simply fill the H-1B slots that Indians cannot fill. If the Indians are H-1B workers, they are entitled to stay on the job for one year, after which they have to come home. So, all the possible domestic applicants can stay on the job, as well.

So far, there have been no reports of how many Indian-Americans have applied for the H-1B slots beyond the quota. If they are able to find jobs, it will be interesting to see how many of them are interested in studying in India for the 2020 academic year.

And so, it is likely that Indians will continue to do good business in the United States. They may even double their fair share of H-1B visas.

Maria Abi-Habib is a policy analyst at IndiaSpend, an independent research and advocacy organization focusing on India. Karan Deep Singh is the deputy editor of IndiaSpend.

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