Friday, October 7, 2022

Lack of short-term US visa availability impacting tech companies

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Unavailability of appointments for the short-term B1/B2 US visas is impacting tech companies, hampering their ability to meet with clients and seek new business in their biggest market.

While B1/B2 visa holders cannot work in the US, these permits are used for personal or business travel for client meetings and attending events and conferences which are an important way of signing on new business, especially for small and medium enterprises. As on Monday, the earliest appointment for a short-term visa was available after more than 700 days (about two years) in Mumbai and Delhi.

Industry body Nasscom said it had taken up this issue with the Indian government and the US Embassy in India, and had been told that things should ease up soon. “We were told that things should improve after September-October so we are optimistic that things will get resolved soon,” said Shivendra Singh, vice president and head of global trade at Nasscom. “This is something that has impacted both large and small companies. People do need to travel for assessment meetings to understand what the client’s digital transformation needs are,” he said.

In-person events have just resumed over the last few months after a two-year lull on account of Covid-19 related restrictions. For several small and medium enterprises, attending industry events is a key way of meeting potential customers and signing on new business.

A spokesperson for the US embassy in India was yet to respond at press time Monday to queries on the steps being taken to address this issue. Most IT companies declined to comment on record, given the sensitivity surrounding visa-related matters.

A mid-size IT company said visa delays were impacting a significant amount of personal and work-related travel, causing hiccups in functioning. Most have resorted to operating in the same manner as they did during the pandemic, relying on virtual interactions, but said that some clients too were keen on in-person meetings given that the world had opened up again.

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Nasscom’s Singh said in the last few months, the industry body had held more events in Canada than in the US, and that ease of travel was one big reason for this. “A lot of the momentum gets shifted, not because of the lack of interest but because of practical challenges. The US remains the number one market for Indian companies,” he said.

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