‘America First’ could become ‘India First’

'America First' could become 'India First'

The United States is great for its willingness to accept talented immigrants.

That’s what Nandan Nilekani, the billionaire co-founder of Infosys Technologies, would say to President Trump if he had the chance.

“If you really want to keep the United States … competitive globally, you should be open to foreign talent,” said Nilekani on the sidelines of CNN’s Asia Business Forum in Bangalore.

Infosys (INFY) It is the second largest outsourcing firm in India and a major recipient of US H-1B visas. USA The documents allow the technology company to employ large numbers of Indians in jobs in the United States.

The Trump administration is now considering significant changes to the visa program. Press secretary Sean Spicer said in January that Trump will continue to talk about reforming the H-1B program, among others, as part of a greater push for immigration reform.

Visa restrictions could further affect Indian workers.

India is the main source of highly skilled labor for the American technology industry. According to data from the US government. In the USA, 70% of the hugely popular H-1B visas go to Indians.

Shares of several Indian tech companies, including Infosys, plummeted two weeks ago amid reports of an impending crackdown on work visas.

Related: tech industry gears up for Trump visa reform

Nilekani said it would be a mistake for the administration to go ahead.

“Indian companies have done a lot to help American companies become more competitive, and I think that should continue,” said Nilekani. “If you look at Silicon Valley … most companies have an immigrant founder.”

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India’s contribution to the industry, especially at the higher levels, has been enormous. The current CEOs of Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT)For example, they were both born in India.

Related: India is scared by US plans USA Of changing highly qualified visas

But Nilekani, who is also the architect of India’s ambitious biometric identification program, suggested that India would ultimately benefit from any new restrictions put in place under Trump’s “America First” plan. If talented engineers cannot go to the United States, they will stay in India.

“This visa problem has always come up in the United States every few years, especially during election season,” he said. “It has actually accelerated development work [in India]because … people are investing more to do the work here. ”

Nilekani cited his own projects for the Indian government as an example.

The Bangalore-born businessman left Infosys in 2009 to run India’s massive social security program, known as Aadhaar. As a result of the initiative, the vast majority of India’s 1.3 billion citizens now have a biometric identification number that enables them to receive government services, execute bank transactions, and even conduct biometric payments.

“It was built by extremely talented and committed Indians,” said Nilekani. “Many of them had global experience, but they brought that talent and experience to solve India’s problems.”

Nilekani said the country’s massive youth population is increasingly choosing to stay home and participate.

“First is India,” he said.

CNNMoney (Bangalore, India) First published on February 13, 2017: 2:19 p.m. ET

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Sarah Gracie

About the Author: Sarah Gracie

Sarahis a reporter covering Amazon. She previously covered tech and transportation, and she broke stories on Uber's finances, self-driving car program, and cultural crisis. Before that, she covered cybersecurity in finance. Sarah's work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Politico, and the Houston Chronicle.

1 Comment

  1. You just haven’t been threatened by replacement by a person on an H-1b visa. It just hasn’t happened to you. Managers used the H-1b replacement as a “motivation” tool. I was always a great worker, those managers are gone. The managers lacked innovation talent needed to stay at the job. I on the other hand kept right on studying my craft and have stayed with my company for more than 20 years now.

    Look, the only reason I have ever been threatened with H-1b replacement is because I make about 20x what people in India and China do. And that is 100% because those countries do not allow DIRECT FORIEGN INVESTMENT. The U.S. dollar is extremely valuable because foreign businessmen can make dollars abroad and come back and invest in the United States.

    I will be worried about China and India, when those countries start allowing direct foreign investment, which they never will. For the same reasons they don’t allow general immigration either. Extreme Nationalism in these countries forbids direct ownership of land and sharply limits transient workers.

    It isn’t innovation that we are getting from India and China, if anything we helping them to innovate more because they steal our technology. It is all about keeping the value of their currencies low compared the U.S. Dollar and Euro. These 2 countries understand that it is all about keeping people in jobs. The United States just doesn’t understand this because politicians are completely bought off in this country. Why else would Obama have expanded the OPT program during the slowest recovery in U.S. history.

    Look, we cannot let the perceived value of money (which is entirely a Wall Street figment) be the reason why our STEM graduates fail to get into jobs. Both countries, India and United States make genius at the same rate, we need to make sure our geniuses don’t wind up in Real Estate or flipping burgers somewhere. That’s all this is about. Immigration is fundamentally and employment issue, let’s be wise about how it is used, let’s be free to think and not resort to hysteria.

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