By R Chandrashekhar
In early April, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that the agency received more than 236,000 petitions for H-1B visas during the annual filing period. This means, that once again the demand for high-skilled temporary foreign workers in the US is nearly three times higher than the 85,000 cap on H-1B visas mandated by the US Congress.
The fact, that demand for visas continues to be so high - despite the reinstated and increased visa fees unfairly imposed by Congress in December 2015 - certainly proves that a shortage of information technology specialists in the US persists.
In fact, the shortage is getting worse as businesses and other organisations across all sectors of the American economy seek digital strategies to gain efficiencies, improve customer service and open new markets. According to US government data, there could be 2.4-million unfilled STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths-related) jobs in the US by 2018, with more than half of these vacancies in computer and IT-related skills.
So why do certain US "experts" and the journalists who follow them continue to claim that employees of India's IT sector operating in the US are stealing jobs from Americans? In part, such claims reflect an election year climate in the US, when complicated issues are boiled down to simplistic slogans to attract votes.
But they also reflect myths that we at Nasscom are working hard to correct.
One such myth is the mistaken notion that American workers are losing jobs to less than fully qualified foreign workers on temporary visas and are required to "train" these workers before departing. In reality, the IT professionals coming to the US from India on temporary H-1B visas are well educated and highly trained in technical knowledge.
Another myth is that temporary high-skilled workers earn far less than their American counterparts.
This has been disproven by credible US institutions such as the Brookings Institution, whose studies have found that H-1B visa holders are paid salaries comparable to or even higher than American workers with bachelor's degrees.
Also a myth is the notion that building a virtual wall of policies and even higher costs to keep Indian IT companies from operating, investing and recruiting in the US would somehow benefit the job prospects and quality of life of Americans. Most certainly the opposite is true. If American businesses cannot obtain skilled IT support in the US, they will have no choice but to curtail operations and cut jobs, or to move operations to overseas locations.
Besides making their US customers more efficient and competitive, Nasscom member companies also invest nearly $1 billion annually in the US, support the employment of more than 411,000 Americans and pay $6 billion in federal, state and local taxes a year.
Yet another "idea" that seems to be growing in this US election year is that foreign trade hurts Americans. Certainly the opposite is true when it comes to India, which the World Bank expects to overtake China in real GDP growth this year. A long-standing US trade deficit with India is beginning to turn around, based on 2015 data.
When increased US defence sales to India are added to the equation, that deficit is further reduced. US military sales to India have increased dramatically along with remarkable strides in military cooperation since the New Framework for Defence Cooperation in 2005.
Rather than building walls, we should remove impediments to strategic collaboration, trade, and the free exchange of intellectual talent. A strong commercial and strategic partnership between India and the US is in the interests of both of our nations. Unfairly focusing blame on India's IT sector is not.
(The author is president of Nasscom)