June 20, 2019 / 10:01 PM / a month ago

U.S. has no plans to cap H-1B work visa program: State Department

FILE PHOTO: A man holds flags of India and the U.S. while people take part in the 35th India Day Parade in New York, U.S. August 16, 2015. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration has no plans to cap H-1B work visas for nations that force foreign companies to store data locally, the State Department said on Thursday.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that the United States had told India it was considering restricting the H-1B visa programs for countries with the data storage requirement. The H-1B program issues U.S. visas to skilled foreign workers.

“The Trump Administration has no plans to place caps on H-1B work visas for nations that force foreign companies to store data locally,” a State Department spokeswoman said in a statement in response to the Reuters article.

While an administration’s “Buy American Hire American” executive order calls for a broad review of U.S. worker visa programs, including the H-1B program, it was not targeted at a specific country, the spokeswoman said.

It is “completely separate from our ongoing discussions with India about the importance of ensuring the free flow of data across borders,” the spokeswoman added.

Earlier on Thursday, India said it was in talks with the United States on H-1B visas, but foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar told a news conference: “We have not heard anything officially from the U.S. government” on capping such permits for Indians.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to visit New Delhi next week for talks that will include areas of disagreement between the two countries over trade.

Two senior Indian officials told Reuters on Wednesday they had been briefed last week on a U.S. plan to cap the number of H-1B visas given annually to Indians at between 10% and 15% of the total number issued.

There is no country-specific limit on the 85,000 H-1B work visas the United States issues every year, and an estimated 70% of them go to Indians.

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Tom Brown and Peter Cooney

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