US Working Closely with India to Implement Visa Hike

By Arun Kumar

Washington, Aug 17 (IANS) The US has said it would work closely with India in implementing a new law hiking work visa fees that would largely hit Indian firms.

"Well, yes, we are talking to Indian officials about the bill," US State Department spokesman Phillip Crowley told reporters Monday when asked about the law signed by President Barack Obama Friday ignoring Indian and American corporate concerns.

"Yes, we are talking about the implications. Yes, we are reviewing a suggestion that this bill is not WTO (World Trade Organisation) compliant," he said.

The legislation proposes to raise the fees on H-1B visas for companies who have more than 50 percent of their employees on such visas for highly skilled professionals. The fees for these visas have been hiked from $320 to $2,320. Similarly, the fee on L visas given to multi-national transferees is hiked from $320 to $2,570.

Indian officials and the US-India Business Council, representing 300 top US firms doing business with India, have warned that the new "discriminatory" law could hurt burgeoning India-US economic ties.

A summary of the bill named Indian firms like Wipro, Tata, Infosys and Satyam, which fly thousands of employees each year to the US to work as technicians and engineers.

The supporters of the bill have said a handful of foreign firms were exploiting the US visa rules to improperly import workers to the country.

"I'm not aware that we've reached any final judgement, but we're not sure that necessarily any WTO issues are triggered," Crowley said, referring to reports that the new law may go against the world body's rules of international trade against protectionism.

"But as we work to administer this law which the Congress passed and the president signed, we will try to understand fully the potential impact it has on individuals and companies in India," he said.

Asked if the US was also talking with the Congress as suggested by him a day before it was signed by Obama, Crowley indicated that stage was over.

"Well, Congress has passed the law and the president signed it," he said. "Now we're trying to understand its potential implications and we'll work closely with India as we implement it."


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