Visa woes: Singapore blocks visas for Indian IT professionals

visa professionalsWhile the focus has been on the US, visas for IT professionals to work in Singapore have dropped “to a trickle”, prompting the government to put on hold the review of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) citing violation of the trade pact.

With Indian companies being advised to hire local talent, they are looking at relocating some of their operations to other countries in the region. From HCL and TCS, which were the early movers to Singapore, the list has expanded to include Infosys, Wipro, Cognizant and L&T Infotech.

Singapore authorities were insisting on what is called “economic needs test” (ENT), which requires compliance with certain economic criteria, to deny access to Indian professionals. In recent years, Singapore has emerged as a key opponent of allowing foreign professionals into the island nation.

The US grants 65,000 H-1B visas annually to foreign workers hired abroad and an additional 20,000 to foreign students enrolled in the country’s colleges and universities. Critics of the programme have argued that it is used by American companies to replace local workers with foreigners on lower wages.

New Delhi, which has argued it is a trade issue and helps American companies remain competitive, has been following these discussions in the Trump administration very closely because Indian companies such as Infosys, TCS and Wipro use the programme widely for their businesses in the US.

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