National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom), India’s IT services trade group, spent $440,000, or about Rs 2.8 crore, in 2016 to lobby with the US Congress, making it the highest spending in the decade and a half period during which the body began pushing its case for a more liberalised visa regime for Indian software workers.
Till 2003, Indian IT services firms had little restrictions with regard to using the visa regime to send engineers to work on projects to help US firms cut costs and improve efficiency as they transitioned to a digital economy.
But soon, pressure from worker associations, whose jobs were being affected by companies looking to outsource and cut costs, started mounting and the US government began applying restrictions on the H-1B visa programme. It was around this time that Nasscom felt that it should lobby and explain to the US government the benefits of outsourcing for the US economy.
In 2003, India began using the services of a US lobby firm to reach out to senators in the US Congress. India’s software exports stood at around $10 billion that year. Nasscom spent around $200,000 in engaging Hill and Knowlton to lobby its case, according to the website opensecrets.org, which tracks political contributions in the US. The website is run by the non-partisan and non-profit Centre for Responsive Politics.
Since then, Nasscom has spent significant sums of money every year on lobbying the case for outsourcing with the US government. While there have been several Bills proposed to curb H-1B visas, there have been none that have been converted into law.
The move by the US to restrict fresh engineers to apply for H-1B visas and focus on scrutiny on existing visa holders to find if there are any violations has come as a setback for the Indian IT industry, which has used Nasscom and the Indian government to lobby with the US.
Nasscom has been arguing that Indian firms have generated 50,000 local jobs in the US, besides contributing by way of taxes to the US economy. Outsourcing has helped US companies to remain competitive, it says, asking the US government to reduce restrictions on the visa programme.
US also has a shortage of one million computer science engineers that cannot be met by local universities, it says. Nasscom’s expenditure on lobbying over the years
Year Amount (US dollar)