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India wary of US visa bill impact on IT industry

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New Delhi/Washington/Bengaluru, Jan 31 : India on Tuesday said it has expressed its concern to the US over a bill to change rules on H-1B visas that will impact the IT industry and Indian techies working in America.

“India’s interests and concerns have been conveyed both to the US administration and the US Congress at senior levels,” said External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup in New Delhi.

The High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017, introduced in the House of Representatives by California Congressman Zoe Lofgren on Monday, calls for doubling the minimum salary of H-1B visa holders to $130,000 from the current minimum wage of $60,000 – a move that could impact Indian techies.

The bill, likely to be signed by President Donald Trump, would make it difficult for firms to use the programme to replace American employees with foreign workers, including from India, with lower wages.

The bill would require that employers first offer a vacant position to an equally or better qualified American worker before seeking an H1B or L-1 visa holder.

It would also establish wage requirements for L-1 workers and improve H1B wage requirements to encourage companies to hire qualified American workers and prevent them from using foreign workers as a source of cheap labour.

H1-B visas are issued to qualified professionals. A related visa is the L-1, which is given to employees of a company who are transferred to the US. Both of them are used extensively by Indian companies.

According to ComputerWorld magazine, nearly 86 per cent of H1-B visas for computer-related jobs and 46.5 per cent for engineering positions were given to Indians.

The US issues 85,000 H1-B visas every year, of which 20,000 are for master’s degree holders from US universities. Because of the large number of applicants – 236,000 in 2016 – the H1-B visas were issued through a lottery system.

As the export-oriented industry’s representative body, Nasscom, said the reform bill was fraught with challenges due to provisions that would nullify its objective of saving American jobs.

“The Lofgren Bill contains provisions that may prove challenging for the Indian IT sector and leave loopholes that will nullify the objective of saving American jobs,” asserted Nasscom in a statement here.

The US market generated about 60 per cent of the $108-billion export revenue for the $143-billion Indian IT industry for the last fiscal (2015-16).

Nasscom’s revised export guidance is $117-119 billion for this fiscal (2016-17).

“Though the bill has to go through an extensive legislative process at the US Congress and the Senate for becoming law, it does not treat all IT service firms with H-1B visa holders equally and the provisions are biased against H-1B dependant firms,” asserted Nasscom President R. Chandrashekhar in a statement here.

Assuring the industry of engaging with the US administration and its lawmakers through the Indian government, the former IT secretary said the apex body would highlight their value contribution as a ‘net creator’ of jobs in the US.

“The Indian IT sector has helped American businesses by providing high-skilled IT solutions in order to innovate, open new markets, expand their operations and creating thousands of new jobs for Americans,” claimed Chandrashekhar.

The bill also does not address the acute shortage of STEM-skilled workers in the US, which led all companies to have a calibrated hiring of locals and bridging the skills gap with skilled workers on non-immigrant visas, including H-1Bs.

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Echoing the Indian government’s and the industry’s concerns over the reform visa bill, Tech Mahindra Chief Executive C.P. Gurnani, however, hoped things would become better once Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets Trump in June.

“President Trump (already) had a conversation with Modi. I am sure they will meet very soon. Both of them have a background (Trump has a background of running businesses and Modi is a pro-business prime minister) and both will definitely find a meeting ground,” Gurnani told BTVi in an interview.

Reiterating that Modi was not shy of raising issues, Gurnani said he believed the meeting could happen as early as June and there could be a positive outcome.

“India-incorporated IT companies have invested around $2 billion in the US and are able to create about 100,000 jobs in America,” added Gurnani.

The legislation, Lofgren said, removes the “per country” cap for employment-based immigrant visas so that all workers are treated more fairly and to move to a system where employers hire the most skilled workers without regard to national origin.

“It (bill) offers a market-based solution that gives priority to those companies willing to pay the most. This ensures American employers have access to the talent they need, while removing incentives for companies to undercut American wages and outsource jobs,” she said.

Trump’s spokesperson Sean Spicer said H-1Bs and other visa are “a part of larger immigration reform effort that the President would continue to talk about through executive order and through working with Congress.”

“There is an overall need to look at all these programmes and you will see both through executive action and through comprehensive legislative measures, a way to address immigration as a whole and the visa programmes,” said Spicer.

Before assuming office in January, Trump said one of his first tasks would be to issue an executive order for the Labour Department to investigate visa abuses that he asserted undercut the wages of American workers.

Along with H1-B, Spicer mentioned spousal and others as categories of visas that Trump may act on.

In 2015, President Barack Obama’s administration permitted spouses of H1-B visa-holders to get permission to work.

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Donald Trump to meet North Korea’s Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12

The two leaders are expected to discuss North Korea’s nuclear weapons development and testing program, which has deepened long-seated tensions between Washington and Pyongyang.

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U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12 in Singapore for a first ever summit between the leaders of the two countries.

“The highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12th. We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!” Trump said on Twitter.

The two leaders are expected to discuss North Korea’s nuclear weapons development and testing program, which has deepened long-seated tensions between Washington and Pyongyang.

Trump’s announcement came just hours after three Americans who had been held prisoner in North Korea arrived at a U.S. military base outside Washington, having been released by Kim.

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Trump’s staffers walk out of White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer deemed the evening a “disgrace” in a tweet, to which Wolf replied: “Thanks!”

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Washington, April 29 : Members of Donald Trump’s administration walked out of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner after comedian Michelle Wolf ripped into them including Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in the absence of the US President who didn’t attend.

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Comedian Michelle Wolf

A year after the White House boycotted the annual dinner, the Director of Strategic Communications, Mercedes Schlapp, and her husband, conservative activist Matt Schlapp, were among those who marched out of the ballroom on Saturday night at the Washington Hilton long before Wolf’s keynote routine was over, reports Politico news.

Footage broadcast live on cable TV networks showed Sanders sitting at the head table on stage stone-faced, wincing and at times raising her eyebrows as Wolf compared her to a character on the dystopian “Handsmaid’s Tale” and to an “Uncle Tom” for white women.

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“I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. But she burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smokey eye,” Wolf joked about Sanders. “Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”

Wolf laced into Trump and repeatedly brought up his comments from the “Access Hollywood” tape where he spoke of groping women.

Wolf opened her act with the line: “Good evening, here we are at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner; like a porn star says when she’s about to have sex with Trump, let’s get this over with.”

Wolf’s other targets included Vice President Mike Pence, White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway and the president’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, Politico reported.

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer deemed the evening a “disgrace” in a tweet, to which Wolf replied: “Thanks!”

Echoing Spicer, former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus called Wolf’s set “R/X rated” and said the performance left Trump as the clear winner.

New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, who was honoured during the dinner for her reporting, said Sanders’ refusal to walk out amid the barbs was “impressive”.

Besides the administration, Wolf also hit out at the media but excluded the print media, because “it’s illegal to attack an endangered species”.

For the second year in a row, Trump avoided one of the annual highlights for a profession he has routinely called “the enemy of the American people”.

On Saturday, he was at a campaign rally in Michigan where he said a possible meeting between him and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un would take place in the next “three or four weeks”.

Begun in 1921, the White House Correspondents’ Association annual dinner has been attended by every President at least once during their term in office, beginning with President Calvin Coolidge in 1924.

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Trump says Kim Jong Un wants to meet ‘as soon as possible’ and that he’s ‘very honorable’

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  • President Donald Trump continued his recent trend of praising North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday by saying he was “very honorable” and “very open.”

  • Trump has a habit of mixing praise of Kim with threats, but has lately taken to praising the North Korean leader.

  • Trump is set to become the first US president to ever meet face to face with a North Korean leader after Kim made a set of stunning concessions and appeared to cave to US demands, but experts are skeptical.

President Donald Trump continued his recent trend of praising North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday by saying he was “very honorable” and “very open” ahead of a planned meeting between the two leaders.

“Kim Jong Un – he really has been very open and, I think, very honorable from everything we’re seeing,” Trump said to reporters, as French President Emmanuel Macron visited the White House.

Trump has proven eager to meet with and conduct diplomacy with Kim despite spending almost all of 2017 threatening North Korea with nuclear annihilation and responding to Pyongyang’s own threats.

But since the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea, and sweeping rounds of US-led sanctions after intercontinental ballistic missile tests and a massive nuclear test, Kim has opened himself up to diplomacy.

First North Korea offered to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in, then made the same offer to Trump, and then Kim unexpectedly went to Beijing to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Trump reportedly accepted the offer to meet Kim without consulting his secretary of state at the time, Rex Tillerson. South Korea’s Moon was less eager, but ultimately agreed when Kim agreed to meet his conditions.

Trump previously said he’d be “honored” to talk to Kim, which he now looks likely to achieve.

He’s also expressed admiration for Kim’s leadership of North Korea, despite the fact that the regime runs labor camps that have been likened to Auschwitz in Nazi-controlled Europe.

“Not many 27-year-old men could go in and take over a regime … Say what you want, but that’s not easy – especially at that age,” Trump told ABC News before his inauguration in January 2016.

“How many young guys – he was like 26 or 25 when his father died – take over these tough generals, and all of a sudden … he goes in, he takes over, and he’s the boss,” Trump said. “You gotta give him credit.”

Trump is set to become the first US president to ever meet face to face with a North Korean leader after Kim made a set of stunning concessions and appeared to cave to US demands.

But experts warn Business Insider that North Korea has entered into and backed out of talks with the US before, and may simply be working to gain sanctions relief as the country’s economy falters.

 

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