Indian workers on H-1B visas could be casualties of a U.S. trade spat

With the trade war between the U.S. and China regularly dominating headlines, it’s easy to forget that the U.S. is also engaged in trade disputes with other countries, such India.

Unless, of course, you’re an Indian worker who wants to get a job in the U.S. Because if that’s the case, then your opportunities might be about to get more limited.

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Having recently canceled concessions on the importation of almost 2,000 Indian products—a move that prompted New Delhi to impose higher tariffs on American goods—the U.S. is now reported to be threatening new caps on the numbers of Indians that can get an American H-1B work visa. The U.S. State Department denies that the Trump administration is mulling this.

However, if the report is correct, tens of thousands fewer Indians might be able to get U.S. work visas each year. This could have a big impact on Indian companies with a U.S. presence—the visas allow people to stay there for up to six years—and also on Silicon Valley, where many H-1B-holding immigrants are employed.

Data localization

According to Reuters, the idea is not to explicitly target India with the move—the White House probably lacks the authority to do that—but rather to threaten new H-1B visa limits on countries that have so-called “data localization” laws.

The State Department denied this, saying: “The Trump Administration has no plans to place caps on H-1B work visas for nations that force foreign companies to store data locally.”

Data localization policies force companies to store the personal data of a country’s citizens on servers located in that country. India waded into these waters last year when its central bank, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), said all Indian transaction data had to be stored in India and nowhere else.

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