While Indian IT professionals have been worried by the recent clampdown on H1-B visas as Donald Trump pledges to prioritize jobs for Americans, Singapore has been quietly cutting down visas for Indian IT professionals over the last few months. Indian companies in the region have been asked to hire local talent, triggering them to move operations to other neighboring countries. From HCL and TCS, which were the early movers to Singapore, the list has expanded to include Infosys, Wipro, Cognizant and L&T InfoTech. In recent years, Singapore has emerged as a key opponent of allowing foreign professionals into the island nation.
“This (visa problem) has been lingering for a while but since early-2016, visas are down to a trickle. All Indian companies have received communication on fair consideration, which basically means hiring local people,” Nasscom president R Chandrashekhar said. For all practical purposes, visas have stopped for our people, added another industry executive.
According to the Singapore government, it is necessary to gauge what the Indian industry has received from the agreement before adding to its scope. But recently, Singapore has begun exercising caution in letting foreign professionals work there. Sources said that Singapore authorities were insisting on what is called “economic needs test” (ENT), which requires compliance with certain economic criteria, to deny access to Indian professionals. “They are doing it despite the CECA clearly stating that there will be no ENT or quotas on agreed services. This is a violation of the agreement,” said an Indian officer, who did not wish to be identified due to the ongoing negotiations. The view in the government is that it is necessary to assess the benefits that Indian industry derives from the agreement before going ahead with agreeing to expand its scope. Services trade globally faces such barriers for professionals with countries insisting on fulfilling various conditions, including ensuring that a local professional is given the first chance if he or she possesses the same or similar talent.
In US, President Donald Trump had said that he would not allow Americans to be replaced by foreign workers, in an apparent reference to companies wherein people hired on H-1B visas, including Indians, displaced US workers. The H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialised fields. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year.