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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

H1b Visa and Asia

Recently American president George called for increasing the number of H1B Visa so that more skilled professionals can come from across the world for scientific and high tech jobs in USA. This call is in a way a surprising matter as American economy is right now not at its best condition. Rising oil price and Iraq war have put the American economy in the back foot for the last few years and rate of unemployment is gradually becoming a major cause of concern for the American people. American workers are losing manufacturing jobs to China and technology jobs Indian workers. Therefore, the call for increasing the number of H1B Visa may seem to be a shock to many. For a full text of the speech of George Bush visit the website: http://www.earnedmedia.org/wh02021.htm.

Why Bush wants to increase number of H1B Visa?
President Bush has emphasized on the need for America to remain highly competitive in science and technology. USA emerged as the world's richest country after the Second World War and it continued to rise and grow all the time. Perhaps the main factor behind this constant growth is highly skilled workforce and entrepreneurs. On the one hand, entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bejos almost single handedly and out of nothing managed successfully to build world class companies like Microsoft, Apple and amazon.com. However, they could expand because they always had the best workers. Their workers had varied backgrounds and came from different parts of the world. To allow US companies get best workers from abroad American Government introduced H1B visa under which US companies can recruit highly skilled professionals from other countries. Currently the number of H1B visa that US government issues annually is 65,000 and it was 195,000 a few years ago during the time of dotcom boom.

Dotcom crash and H1B
Things did not go very well for the American technological companies in the last 5 years and a number of companies (especially dotcom companies) were shut down. However, it seems now that the worst is really over and the US government is also getting keen to see USA remain as the market leader in the technology sector. That is why most probably we will see an increase in H1B visa in the near future. Even if it does not take place this time it is most likely to happen next year. Any increase in this number will have a positive impact on the Asian economy countries like China and India are the leaders in getting H1B Visa.

Indian success:
In the last one decade, India was the major player as its workers received the largest number of H1B visas. Good technical know how coupled with high level of skill in English language have helped Indian technological professionals to shine in the US market. Decrease in the number of Visas from 195,000 to 65,000 did not help India at all as the number of people studying in technological fields is increasing all the time. At the same time, those professionals who go to USA with H1B Visa benefit the Indian economy in 3 ways. First of all, they get good salary and when they send a considerable portion of their income to their families in India, Indian economy is blessed with the arrival of hard currency. Secondly, the Indian workers help to uplift the image or goodwill of India as a country with abundance professionals with high technical and English language skills. This paves way for more recruits from India in the coming days. The third benefit is that the workers who work through H1B Visa get real experience in working in USA- the most competitive economy in the world. After completing their works many of them return to India and use their experience and this has greatly benefited the Indian technology sector. Now, India is not only a country with a huge pool of talented techies but also is gradually building a very stable and solid leadership in the technology world. In other words, Indian technology sector is gaining its inner strength.
Let the market demand rule
Indian government and the technology industry have taken the matter of H1B Visa very seriously and are going to lobby hard with US administration when George Bush visits India in the coming days. Indian technology leaders will urge US president George Bush and others in the American Administration to let the market demand determine the number of visas instead of binding it to a fixed number.

What about the other countries in Asia?
China has already established its own presence in the technology sector of USA. China is pursuing very aggressively its own goal of improving the English language skills of its students so that it can be at per with India in the software field. The other countries in Asia that can take advantage of any increase in number of H1B Visa are Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Hong Kong (under China), Singapore, Bangladesh, Philippines etc as these countries are pursuing their excellence in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector and also their workforce are more or less skilled in English language.

What next?
Right now US administration and Congressmen are with a very peculiar dilemma. On the one hand, they are not very enthusiastic to increase the quota in H1B visa as unemployment figure in USA is not very rosy. On the other hand, USA needs influx of the most talented and skilled workers from around the world to keep its leadership in the technology sector intact in the long term. George Bush has already stated his own inclination towards increasing number of H1B Visa. Now it is up to the members of Congress to take the final decision. Whatever way they choose it is going to make some people unhappy- no doubt about that.

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