US tells India: Mulling cap over H-1B visas to deter data rules amidst trade tensions

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New Delhi, June 20: The United States has on Wednesday told the Indian government it was considering to restrict H-1B work visas for countries that force international companies to collect data locally, according to three sources acknowledged with the matter – a move could widen the two nations’ row over trade and tariffs.

According to Reuters news reports, the announces to cap H-1B popular visa program – under which skilled and highly educated foreign workers get employment in the United States each year – comes days before an official visit by secretary of state Mike Pompeo to India.

India, which has disturbed companies like Mastercard and annoyed the US government with strict fresh rules over data storage, is the highest consumer of these temporary visas.

The cautions come as trade frictions between India and the US have caused in tit-for-tat tariffs actions in the last few weeks. India has imposed higher tariffs over some American goods on Sunday after the US withdrew New Delhi from a key trade privilege.

On Wednesday, two senior Indian government officials said last week they were briefed up on Washington’s plan to restrict H-1B visas, issued every year to Indians at the annual quota between 10 percent to 15 percent.

Both officials stated the plan was linked to an international effort for “data localization”, under which a nation places a cap on data in order to gain better control on it and possibly curb foreign companies’ power. US companies have tried hard against data localization rules across the world.

“The proposal is that any country that does data localization, then it (H-1B visas) would be limited to about 15% of the quota. It’s being discussed internally in the U.S. government,” the person said.

 

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