H-1B Visas Enable Talent to Come to U.S., Creating Jobs, Says Congressman Ro Khanna Staff
An Indian American congressman has said that American lawmakers should make sure that the H-1B visa program, popular among Indian techies, is not abused to undercut the U.S. job market and attract the best and the brightest into the country.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows U.S. companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields.
"There are people who are now leading huge tech companies that started out on H-1B visas. They are creating jobs and they're creating innovation. We want to make sure that talent is coming to the U.S., because we know that most H-1B visas, when you look at those studies, are job creators. They are not job takers," said Congressman Ro Khanna, who represents the Silicon Valley in the House of Representatives.
"But we want to make sure that it's being done with proper compensation. That they are not being underpaid, that they're being paid a wage that is the prevailing wage," he said.
He was speaking at an event organized by the South Asia Center of Atlantic Council, a top American think-tank.
There are several legislative proposals pending in the U.S. Congress both in the House of Representatives and the Senate in this regard, with Khanna himself being the author of one of them.
"But the gist of it is we want to make sure that folks are coming on an H1-B visa are paid a high wage so that it's not undercutting the American market and people are not mistaking H-1B visa holders as something that benefits corporations and putting downward pressure on American wages.
“That they're really looking at it is a program that's going to help get the best and brightest into the United States to create jobs in the U.S.," Khanna said.
Responding to a question, Khanna said obviously it would be illegal to single out any company based on nationality or based on race or religion.
"I certainly don't believe in doing that. So, the question is just about having a wage floor," he said.
"If it turns out… a lot of the tech companies, Apple and Google and Facebook, if you look at their H-1B filings, are paying about and $120,000-$130,000 on average. If other companies are doing that that's fine.”
Indian Americans, he said, have made extraordinary contributions in Silicon Valley.
"I mean you've got people like Vinod Khosla, Sunder Pichai, at Google. I mean the list is endless in terms of individuals," he said.
Asserting that immigration strengthens America's economic competitiveness, he also said the recent move of the President Donald Trump on issues related to this has tried to undermine the conception of America.
"I have always believed that our advantage is that we are a country that welcomes anyone to be American…This president in recent times has probably tried to undermine that conception of America more than any president certainly in my lifetime," Khanna said.
Immigration, he said, obviously strengthens this country.
In related news from New Delhi, a senior U.S. official Sept. 14 sought to allay India's concerns on the H-1B visa program, which is being "reviewed" by the Trump administration, saying there are no "restrictions" in place.
The official said around 70 percent of the visas issued under the H-1B category over the past nine months have gone to Indians and that a record 1.2 million visas of Indians were adjudicated by the U.S. last year.
The year-over-year increase in terms of issuance of H-1B visas and L1 visas (work permit) to Indians is six percent each, the official said.
"The president (Donald Trump) spoke about review. There are no restrictions but it (H-1B) is under review," he said, adding the issue was not on the agenda for the upcoming Indo-U.S. bilateral dialogue on consular relations, but it may come up in the course of the talks.