India is engaged with US on H-1B work visa to Indian professionals: Sushma Swaraj tells RS


New Delhi, India is engaged with the United States Administration at all levels on all issues relating to issuance of H-1B work visa to Indian professionals. ``Even though the number of H-1B visas issued to Indian professionals has gone up from 1.08 lakh in 2014 to 1.29 lakh in 2017, the danger of restriction remains,’’ External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told Rajya Sabha here on Thursday during the Question Hour. ``The Indian government is closely engaged in the matter at all levels,’’ she said. The Minister said that India was going to take up the matter `strongly’ at External Affairs and Defense Minister levels during the two-plus-two meeting with US Administration in September. Sharing the concern raised by a Congress member, she said US President Donald Trump on April 18, 2017 through an Executive Order titled `Buy American and Hire American’ had suggested reforms to the H-1B visa regime. The Minister informed the House that the total number of H-1B visas issued to Indian professionals was 108,817 in 2014 and 119,952 in 2015. This number had gone up to 1,29 lakh in 2017 which comprised 72 per cent of the total H-1B visas issued by the US Administration. ``According to the data released by the US Department of State the number of H-1B visas issued to Indian nationals and their share in total number of such visas issued by the US increased in 2017 as compared to 2016,’’ she said. Ms Swaraj informed the House that that there were concerns about the full discretion to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to deny an application or petition without prior filing of a Request for Evidence or Notice of Intent to Deny in certain cases on the basis of initial evidence. Ms Swaraj said she had taken up the matter with the White House, State Administration and Congressmen. She raised the issue with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in New York in September, 2017 and in New Delhi in June, 2018. She said the Finance Minister had also taken up the issue with Trade and Commerce Secretary as well as by the Union Commerce and Industries Minister with his counterpart. She rejected as `not official and informal` a suggestion that there had been 42 per cent increase in denial of H-1B visas to Indian-born professionals and asserted that the percentage of H-1B visas issued to Indian-born professionals had gone up.