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Germany to court Indian IT talent – starting with easier visa application processes

Perhaps just in time to give H-1B holders affected by US tech layoffs somewhere to go other than home

German chancellor Olaf Scholz has expressed his country's intention to import more qualified IT workers from India.

"India has so much talent to offer and we want to benefit from that cooperation here in India but also with an eye to recruiting and attracting those talents to Germany and employing them there in our industry sectors," declared Scholz. The chancellor told reporters Germany will ease the visa process to achieve the goal.

Scholz made the remarks on a visit to India, and was diplomatic enough to discuss tech industry collaboration beyond luring local talent offshore.

Speaking at a press conference alongside prime minister Narendra Modi last Friday, Scholz said the two countries need to work together in the research and development of IT and software.

The chancellor also spoke of increased German and European Union investment in India.

India is proud of its tech sector, and many see a role in the industry as a stepping stone to a job in another nation.

While many workers who make that choice send money home – or bring their expertise home – experts suggest that skilled Indian nationals that go abroad often stay abroad.

Research from American policy think tank, the Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET), found that 87 percent of STEM PhD-holding Indian nationals stay in the US after graduating from a stateside university. Many often pursue citizenship, but country-based caps in the States provide challenges to naturalizing.

Also in the US, India has lobbied hard for retention of the H-1B visa that allows skilled workers from India to be employed stateside.

Many tech companies happily employ Indian techies on the H-1B.

But with tens of thousands of IT workers recently laid off, H-1B holders who lost their gigs are allowed just 60 days to secure alternative employment, or visas, before they are required to leave the US.

While congressional reps have lobbied [PDF] for skilled workers to be allowed to remain – because the US can use their talents – many remain at risk.

The possible departure of H-1B holders therefore creates an opportunity for countries like Germany willing to sponsor the talent. However, while Indian workers who move to the US usually speak English, few are fluent in German.

Scholz is reportedly not concerned about language barriers for Indians migrating to Germany – such hurdles have been overcome in the past.

According to a study from the German Business Institute (IW), Germany has already seen high growth of STEM professionals from other countries, with the European country seeing the largest increase over the past decade among Indian IT professionals, at a whopping 558 percent. Most currently enter the country on the EU's Blue Card visa scheme.

Study author Christina Anger said such increases have long-term impact "because immigration creates networks into the countries of origin.” Scholtz tweeted on Sunday that he was "impressed" by India's digitization and high-tech competence.

"As a strong and open country, Germany can benefit greatly from the exchange – especially of specialists," said Scholtz. ®

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