Will look into India’s concerns on visa fee hike: US

By: | Updated: August 30, 2016 9:26 PM

With Indian IT industry alleging that they are being targeted, US trade secretary Penny Pritzker assured that the American authorities would look into the concerns expressed by the Indian side on H-1B visa fees and an elusive totalisation agreement.

“We did raise (visa issues). We voiced our concerns and gave an estimate on damages it will do to our industry,” commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman said after the conclusion of the 2nd Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD) meeting between the US and India here. (PTI)“We did raise (visa issues). We voiced our concerns and gave an estimate on damages it will do to our industry,” commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman said after the conclusion of the 2nd Strategic and Commercial Dialogue meeting between the US and India here. (PTI)

With Indian IT industry alleging that they are being targeted, US trade secretary Penny Pritzker assured that the American authorities would look into the concerns expressed by the Indian side on H-1B visa fees and an elusive totalisation agreement.

“We did raise (visa issues). We voiced our concerns and gave an estimate on damages it will do to our industry,” commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman said after the conclusion of the 2nd Strategic and Commercial Dialogue
(S&CD) meeting between the US and India here.

Earlier in the day, the issues of the visa fee and the totalisation agreements were raised in the US-India CEOs forum in the presence of Pritzker. India is concerned about the US move to drastically hike the H-1B and L-1 visa charges, which is estimated to quadruple the Indian IT industry’s annual visa costs to $400 million. Two US lawmakers last month had introduced in the House of Representative a piece of legislation which, if approved by the Congress, will prevent Indian companies from recruiting IT professionals on H1B and L1 work visas in the US. Although the US claims that its decision to hike the visa fees isn’t country-specific, trade analysts say the move is cleverly tailor-made to target the Indian IT industry. This is because India is a major user of such temporary work visas for skilled professionals, making up for roughly 67% of H1-B visas and 28% of L-1 visas in 2013-14.

“I don’t think that’s true (Indian IT professionals being targeted). Visa change was not directed towards Indian workers,” Pritzker said. Increasing India-US business ties is one of our highest priorities, she added.

In the S&CD, US side was represented by Secretary of State John Kerry and Pritzker while Indian side was represented by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and Sitharaman.

India is trying to impress upon the US to sign a totalisation agreement to exempt the IT industry from mandatory payments for social security of their Indian employees in the US, sources said. IT companies are paying around $1
billion a year to comply with social security norms for their Indian employees in the US despite the fact that they don’t live there long enough to be eligible for such benefits. On other issues, India and the US expressed commitment to work on improving the ease of doing business, leveraging the US experience for developing Smart Cities in India, and fostering innovation and entrepreneurship. India-US two-way trade reached $109 billion in 2015 while India was among the top 10 growing sources of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the US in 2015, reaching $11.8 billion.

Swaraj pitched for expansion of defence cooperation to the next stage of co-production and co-development.

Responding to media queries both Swaraj and the visiting US secretary of state John Kerry said that the two sides have been able to conclude a Framework for the India-US Cyber Relationship, the first of its kind both for India and the US, with any other country. ends

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