WASHINGTON: Ahead of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's visit to India next week, the State Department has assured that the Donald Trump Administration has no plans to impose caps on the H-1B work visas for nations that force foreign companies to store data locally.
The assurance came from a senior State Department official during a background briefing ahead of Mike Pompeo`s visit to India next week.
''On H-1B, I think the Secretary will be able to assure the Indian leadership that we have no plans to place caps on H-1B work visas for nations that are having foreign companies store data locally,'' the State Department official said.
He added that ''there is a broad review of the H-1B program underway, but this is not targeted at India. It’s completely separate from our ongoing discussions with India about the importance of ensuring better trade.''
The official also acknowledged the importance of the visa programme for US companies.
"We attach great importance to the US-India relationship. Indians have contributed under the H-1B program to the US economy,'' he added.
The assurance came after media reports claimed that the US was going to cap the H-1B visas issued to Indians at 15 per cent in retaliation for Indian regulations requiring some financial services companies like credit card issuers to store data within India.
About 70 per cent of H-1B visas now goes to the Indians. The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
The official also said that Pompeo`s visit will seek to deepen the relations between the two countries, especially in strategic and trade areas, as both democracies shared a commitment to an open Indo-Pacific region and shared concerns about the developments in the region.
Hailing External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar as "one of the visionaries behind the expansion of the India-US strategic partnership", the official said that the US Secretary of State was looking forward to meeting him and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The official saw PM Modi`s re-election with a stronger mandate as something that will help in deepening ties with the US, especially in trade and business as it would mesh with his vision of building a strong India.
"PM Modi`s mandate strengthened the way he can implement his vision for a strong India that plays an important role in world affairs and US wants to help achieve it by moving the relationship on an upward trajectory," the official added.
The official added that trade will be an important part of Pompeo`s interactions in New Delhi.
He will seek to "jump-start a discussion on trade and move quickly to resolve long-standing irritants", the official said, while acknowledging that they are not going to be resolved in one meeting but it will have to be a credible process.
The official, however, regretted that although bilateral trade has increased and US deficits have come down, India did not offer US companies a level playing field.
Welcoming India stopping the purchase of crude oil from Iran in response to US sanctions, the official, however, said that any change in the US policy to permit resumption of purchase was unlikely.
At the same time, the official confirmed that India`s Chabahar port project will be exempt from US sanctions. India will be able to continue essential humanitarian supplies to Afghanistan as well as to provide Afghanistan with economic alternatives, the official said.
It is to be noted that Pompeo, a top ranking figure in the Donald Trump Administration, is coming to India next week to kick-start a dialogue towards the resolution of some of the key issues in trade between the two countries.
Pompeo will be visiting India from June 25 to June 27. His visit comes ahead of a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan on June 28-29.
During his visit, Pompeo will meet Prime Minister Modi and his new Indian counterpart External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.