Nasscom steps up US lobbying on immigration, visa issues

Nasscom paid a total amount of USD 1,50,000 (nearly Rs 1 crore) to its two registered lobbyists in the first quarter of 2017.

Washington: Facing rough weather amid large-scale layoffs and visa curbs in the US, the Indian IT industry body Nasscom has stepped up its lobbying with the American lawmakers significantly with an over one-third increase in money spent on such activities.

According to the latest lobbying disclosure reports filed with the US Senate, the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) paid a total amount of USD 1,50,000 (nearly Rs 1 crore) to its two registered lobbyists in the first quarter of 2017.

This marks a significant rise from USD 1,10,000 paid to the two lobbyists in the previous quarter ended December 2016. The amount was same for each of the four quarter of 2016.

Among the two lobbyists, The Lande Group was paid USD 50,000 in January-March quarter of 2017 -- the same as the money paid in each of the four quarters of 2016.

However, the other lobbyist, Wexler & Walker, a unit of Hill+Knowlton Strategies, LLC, was paid USD 100,000 in the first quarter of 2017, as against USD 60,000 in the previous three-month period and in many of the previous quarters.

As per the lobbying disclosure report, the "specific lobbying issues" undertaken by this lobbyist included those related to immigration. The "general issues" included tax and trade matters.

The houses of Congress and federal agencies with whom it lobbied on behalf of Nasscom, which itself acts as a lobby group for the USD 150 billion Indian IT industry, included the US Senate and the US House of Representatives.

On the other hand, Lande Group covered a larger number of "specific lobbying issues", including with several federal agencies, as per its first-quarter disclosure report. These included "high skill immigration, green cards, visa processing, US-India relations, US-India matters, tax reform, (and) border adjustment tax".

In addition to the Senate and the House of Representatives, The Lande Group also did lobbying with the White House Office, the US Trade Representative, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services and the departments of state, commerce and homeland security.

Nasscom took a delegation of the Indian IT industry earlier this year to the US to engage with members of the Trump administration on issues like clampdown on work visas and flow of skilled manpower between the two nations.

During the visit, Nasscom president R Chandrashekhar had said the debate in the US over H-1B visas has become a political and emotive issue as there is a "yawning gap" between the facts and perception and the Indian IT firms contribute immensely to the US economy and jobs creation.

He met several influential American lawmakers, opinion builders, members of the think-tank community and government officials to discuss H-1B visa issues, among other matters.

The visit of the Nasscom delegation came in the wake of the ongoing debate in the US and moves to curtail the use of H-1B visas, widely used by Indian IT majors.The US recently also accused top Indian IT firms TCS and Infosys of "unfairly" cornering the lion's share of the H-1B work visas by putting extra tickets in the lottery system, a charge vehemently countered by Nasscom.

Close on the heels of this accusation, Infosys went on to announce plans to hire 10,000 Americans, though this move was described by some as an act to appease US President Donald Trump's administration which has tightened the rules of H-1B visa programme to stop its 'abuse'.

Nasscom's lobbying expenses rising

An analysis of the lobbying disclosure reports filed for Nasscom shows that the Indian software industry body paid USD 440,000 to the two registered lobbying firms in 2016.

The Lande Group has been lobbying on behalf of Nasscom since third quarter of 2010, while Wexler & Walker registered itself as a lobbyist for the industry body in October 2015.

Previously, Hill and Knowlton had registered itself as a lobbyist for Nasscom way back in February 2003 but that association got terminated in first quarter of 2008. Since the beginning, the lobbying issues for Nasscom have included "immigration and technology issues of interest to the Indian software industry".

The total lobbying expenses for Nasscom in the year 2015 was USD 270,000, while it was even lower at USD 140,000 in 2014 and USD 150,000 in 2013. The amounts were USD 115,000 in 2012, USD 75,000 in 2011 and just USD 40,000 in 2010. The lobbying expenses for Nasscom stood at USD 60,000 in 2006, USD 100,000 in 2005, USD 180,000 in 2004 and at USD 200,000 in 2003.

( Source : PTI )
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