India will press the US for not extending the provisions of the country’s Border Security Act – which almost doubled the H1B and L1 visa fees – beyond 2015, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets US President Barack Obama later this month.
A senior official told The Indian Express that the visa concerns and long-pending totalisation agreement are the two major issues India wants to resolve during the visit of the US President in Delhi to attend the Republic Day ceremony on January 26.
“During the trade policy forum last year between the two nations, issues across the sectors including greater market access for agricultural products, intellectual property rights (IPR), aggressive approach of the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) were taken up by the Indian government. In this meeting, we want to focus on first resolving visa concerns and ensuring totalisation agreement,” the official said.
The US Border Security Act, which was enacted in 2010, was to lapse on September 30, 2014, but was extended till 2015. It increased visa fees to $4,500 for firms employing more than 50 per cent foreigners as workforce, making it expensive for the Indian IT companies to send their employees to the US for on-site jobs. Officials from the department are already in the US, negotiating with their counterparts to not extend the provisions of the Act beyond September 2015. “This will be a win-win situation for both the nations to resolve the contentious issue,” the official said. According to the US, India is the top recipient of H1B visas — 65,000 as of November 2014.
Further, the “unwillingness” of the US to engage on totalisation agreement would also be discussed during when Modi and Obama meet. While India has around 3 lakh workers in the US, contributing over $1 billion towards social security taxes, they do not get any benefits. “We though gave a draft agreement to the US it has remained stalled since 2010. We want concrete action on this front,” the official said. While the US the signed such agreement with several OECD countries, it has refused to do so with India on the grounds of differences in social security agreements of the two nations in terms of scope and coverage.
Meanwhile, the US President is likely to raise the issue of high tariffs on agricultural products, concerns on India’s IPR, local content requirements in the solar sector, and liability protection for its companies that are looking to harness nuclear energy needs of the country. Washington and New Delhi are also likely to enter into commercial agreements under the US-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, the official said.