US Hopes Visa Law Will Not Hurt India Ties

By Arun Kumar

Washington, Aug 14(IANS): The United States hopes that a new law to secure US-Mexico border by raising $600 million through steep work visa fee hikes would not affect its "close, robust and vital relationship" with India.

"I think this administration has a very close relationship with India and we hope to sustain it as such," US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters Friday when asked about fears the law, which largely affects India's IT and outsourcing industries, would hurt their relationship.

"I don't think it will," she said when asked to comment on the warning of US-India Business Council representing top 300 US companies doing business with India that the "discriminatory" law would impact burgeoning India-US economic ties.

"I think the United States and India have a robust and vital relationship, and nothing in this bill should interfere with that," said Napolitano at a White House briefing shortly after President Barack Obama Friday signed the controversial bill into law ignoring Indian and American corporate concerns.

The 600-million-dollar price tag would be paid for mostly by hiking H-1B and L visa fees by over $2000 on what the measure's backers called a handful of foreign firms that "exploit" US visa programme to improperly import workers to the United States.

A summary of the bill named Indian firms Wipro, Tata, Infosys and Satyam, which send thousands of employees each year to the United States to work at their clients' locations as technicians and engineers.

Defending the visa fee hike Napolitano said: "I think the method of payment, which is an increased visa charge for certain business-related visas makes a lot of sense" because it pays for immigration out of the visa system.

"And that way it doesn't come out of the general fund, which is necessary for so many other things," she said commending the Senate for finding a way to "fund this bill that doesn't add to the deficit and allows us to get the enforcement monies we need on a permanent basis."

Asked to comment on reports that the US could be taken to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for violating the WTO rules with this provision, Napolitano said: "On that I can't comment. That has not been raised to me at all."

The visa fee increases pay for 1,000 new US Border Patrol agents to form a "strike force" for quick deployment, 250 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents as well as 250 new Customs and Border Protection officers at ports of entry.



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