Geithner’s India Visit Sparks Hopes For More High-Tech Visas

U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner recently met in New Delhi with Indian Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, for the third meeting of the India-U.S. Economic and Financial Partnership. [See Joint Statement of Secretary Geithner and Indian Finance Minister Chidambaram at the 2012 U.S.-India Economic and Financial Partnership, 09.Oct.2012, U.S. Department of the Treasury.] U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Reserve Bank of India Governor Subbarao also participated in these discussions, meant to strengthen economic and financial ties between the United States and India.

According to InformationWeek, Secretary Geithner told his Indian counterpart that, “I think it’s very likely that over time you will see a significant expansion of the role played by Indians and Indian companies in the American recovery,” noting that “I think we’re at the early stage, even acknowledging and recognizing the huge benefits to the American economy already of the scale of Indian investment and Indian talent in the United States.” [See More Visas for Indian Tech Workers? by Paul McDougall, InformationWeek, 12.Oct.2012.] In India, all this talk of increasing economic integration – and especially of Indian talent – was seen as a signal that U.S. immigration authorities might make more visas available to Indian high-tech workers, InformationWeek reports.

For now, this is little more than wishful thinking, since the USCIS has not announced any intention to expand the H1B program. Moreover, as InformationWeek pointed out, such an expansion is unlikely to come in the heat of a presidential campaign, given the sensitivity of the outsourcing issue.

That said, even wishful thinking can lead to action if enough people want it, and it’s not just Indians who want more H1B slots to be made available. American tech companies are pressing Congress to provide more H1B visas, so they can hire more STEM graduates from overseas. Congress, to its credit, is starting to pay attention; there is bipartisan support for some kind of STEM visa reform, but no agreement yet on how to do it. As sports fans say when their team falls short of a playoff berth: maybe next year.

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