Modi discusses H1-B visa issue with US Vice President

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and the US Vice President Michael Richard Pence, on the sidelines of East Asia Summit in Singapore on Wednesday. PTI photo

President Donald Trump should factor in the “democratic values” the professionals from India take to the United States when it would consider changing its H-1B visa programmes, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told American Vice President Mike Pence in Singapore.

Modi told Pence that Indian professionals not only took to America the talent and capacity to innovate and excel but also carried with them “democratic values” they were imbued with, Foreign Secretary, Vijay Gokhale, told journalists after the meeting between Prime Minister and US Vice President in Singapore on Wednesday.

Modi and Pence are in Singapore to take part in the East Asia Summit, which is being hosted by the city state's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The two leaders had a bilateral meeting on the sideline of the summit and discussed not only bilateral, regional and international issues.

Prime Minister conveyed to American Vice President his “appreciation” for President Donald Trump's administration in Washington D.C. for hosting celebrations in White House on Tuesday on the occasion of Deepavali.

Modi used the opportunity to convey to Pence New Delhi's concerns over Trump Administration's plan to overhaul the H-1B visa regime – a move, which could hit hard the Information Technology companies of India.

Gokhale quoted Modi conveying to Pence that Indian professionals in America had carried with them democratic tradition and thus they had added value not only to the US economy but also to the political and social fabric of the US. “And, in that context, the Prime Minister, therefore, expressed the hope that this would be the approach that United States might take when it looks at the whole issue of the H-1B visa and this was appreciated by Vice President Pence,” Foreign Secretary told the journalists.

Trump's “America First” rhetoric and his vows to protect jobs for the Americans triggered apprehensions in New Delhi that some of the policies of his administration could hit India's Information Technology industry hard. New Delhi has been concerned over the proposed moves by Trump Administration to bring in changes in the H-1B and L-1 visa programmes to make it difficult for the skilled professionals from India and other countries, particularly the ones working in Information Technology sector, to stay and work in America.

The US Congressmen and Senators introduced as many as seven Bills in the current 115th American Congress, suggesting changes in the provisions of the H-1B and L-1 visa programmes.

None of the bills has been passed yet though.

Trump, however, issued an Executive Order titled "Buy American and Hire American” on April 18, 2017, which required different arms of the US Administration to suggest reforms to the H-1B visa programme.

The US Administration already took some steps towards stricter enforcement and prevention of abuse of the work visa programmes.

India has been prodding the US Administration to refrain from making any further executive move to change the H-1B and L-1 visa programmes. New Delhi has also been urging US lawmakers to resist any such moves in the American Congress.

New Delhi has so far been underlining the contribution made by the Indian professionals staying and working in America to the US economy.

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Modi discusses H1-B visa issue with US Vice President

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