India, the world’s second-largest country by population, sends the most foreign workers to America on H-1B visas for specialty occupations by a wide margin. Statistics reported by the U.S. Department of State show that in 2012, 80,630 H-1B visas were issued to workers coming from that country. In second-place that year was China, which sent a total of 11,077 workers over on an H-1B visa; these numbers include submissions of visa extensions which don’t count against the annual cap of 85,000 new H-1B visas.
With such a high rate of H-1B visa workers coming from a single country, it’s reasonable to expect that the topic becomes politically important between the U.S. and India at times. Recent increases to H-1B visa fees paid by companies has some observers wondering whether those fee increases could stifle sales of American exports to India. New U.S. laws doubling the price of H-1B applications for companies hosting over 50 such employees are the basis of a complaint filed by India with the World Trade Organization (WTO) in early March.
Indo-American governmental relations on the H-1B issue could continue to degrade should either of the Republican presidential nominee front-runners, Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), ascend to the White House. Cruz is the sole sponsor of S.2394, the American Jobs First Act of 2015. Provisions of this bill prevent nonimmigrant foreign students from gaining employment under the optional practical training (OPT) program, which allows students to remain in America after graduating to gain employment here, in some cases for a little more than two years. In the fall of 2014, 22 percent of the 133,000 Indian students studying in America were employed through the OPT program.
India’s Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian is the latest in a long line of sane and rational people who have become concerned with remarks made by potential Republican nominee Donald Trump. Subramanian recently noted how Trump’s avowal to fight the H-1B visa program, despite Trump’s willingness to use such workers in his own businesses, could do a great deal of damage to India’s services-led export model. Indian government officials believe that services-led exports can reach sustainable growth of up to 10 percent in the coming years.
And yet, wouldn’t you know it, it appears that the political preferences of Indian-Americans are actually shifting in favor of the Donald. Social media trends reported by The Times of India indicate that Trump is gaining increased support from online Indian-American communities. Trump will also enjoy the support of the Indian-Americans for Trump 2016 PAC, which registered with the Federal Election Commission in late January.