White House aspirant Vivek Ramaswamy wants to ‘gut’ the H-1…

NEW DELHI: For the second time in as many days, Indian-American Republican White House aspirant Vivek Ramaswamy has slammed the H-1B visa programme, which provides opportunity to tens of thousands of Indian professionals every year, saying the “lottery” system needs to be gutted and replaced with a “meritocratic” skill-based immigration policy.
Giving further insight into his restrictionist immigration policy agenda, Ramaswamy told Fox News in an interview on Sunday: “It is a lottery.Why on Earth would you use a lottery when you could use meritocratic admission instead, restore merit.”

The H-1B visa, much sought-after among Indian IT professionals, is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.

Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.
Citizenship test for visa?
“We have to gut that system, restore meritocratic immigration, which is skills, not just tech skills, but all kinds of skills to match the needs we have in this country, but also civic commitments to this country. Take the citizenship test on the back end. I say move it to the front end even to get a visa,” Ramaswamy said.

“There’s also lobbying-based provisions where companies who sponsor somebody, that H-1B immigrant cannot work for a different company unless they actually have a whole bureaucratic process to go through,” said the 38-year-old biotech entrepreneur, who is vying with former US president Donald Trump and others to get the Republican Party’s nomination for the 2024 presidential election.
‘A form of indentured servitude’
Ramaswamy’s latest remark comes a day after he told Politico that the H-1B system is “bad for everyone” involved.
“I come from a place of understanding and I have played within the rules given to us by the government, but part of my job as US president is to reform those rules to help all Americans. And I won’t apologise for restoring merit,” said Ramaswamy, whose former company Roivant Sciences used the programme 29 times from 2018 through 2023 to hire foreign employees under H-1B visas.

As of March 31, the company and its subsidiaries had 904 full-time employees, including 825 in the US, according to its Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
“The lottery system needs to be replaced by actual meritocratic admission. It’s a form of indentured servitude that only accrues to the benefit of the company that sponsored an H-1B immigrant. I’ll gut it,” the multimillionaire told Politico.
“The people who come as family members are not the meritocratic immigrants who make skills-based contributions to this country,” said the White House aspirant — who is himself the child of immigrants — adding that the US needed to eliminate chain-based migration.
Ramaswamy has also said he will use military force to secure the border, and that he would deport US-born children of undocumented immigrants.
What the reforms may mean for Indians
H-1B visas are highly sought after, and the demand for these workers continues to increase. For fiscal year 2021, US businesses submitted 780,884 applications for just 85,000 available slots, jumping by more than 60%.
Every year, the US gives 65,000 H-1B visas which are open to all and 20,000 to those with advanced US degrees. Indians reportedly made up to 73% of the 4.42 lakh H-1B workers in the 2022 fiscal year.
Implementation of any reforms as suggested by Ramaswamy could have a significant impact on Indians and the Indian diaspora, as they are among the largest beneficiaries of the H-1B visa programme.

A merit-based system would likely result in increased competition among Indian applicants. This could make it more challenging for some individuals to secure an H-1B visa, as they would need to demonstrate exceptional qualifications and skills to stand out in a merit-based system.
A shift towards a meritocratic system may also result in fewer H-1B visas being available for lower-skilled or entry-level positions.
Employers would likely play a more significant role in the selection process. Companies willing to sponsor highly skilled Indian workers may need to demonstrate their commitment to investing in workforce development.
Some merit-based immigration proposals prioritise primary applicants based on their individual qualifications, potentially reducing the number of family members accompanying the primary visa holder. This could impact the ability of Indian workers to bring their families to the US.

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