High visa fee, other issues raised with United States: Govt

India on Wednesday raised its concerns with the US authorities over high visa fees and discriminatory social security benefits to Indian professionals working in America.

PTI| Updated: Sep 17, 2014, 22:08 PM IST

New Delhi: India on Wednesday raised its concerns with the US authorities over high visa fees and discriminatory social security benefits to Indian professionals working in America.

India also flagged matters related with market access for agri products such as rice, mangoes, pomegranates and table grapes with the visiting US officials.

The issues came up for discussion during a meeting between Commerce Secretary Rajeev Kher and Acting Deputy US Trade Representative Wendy Cutler here.

Kher raised the key issues that India would like to take up in the next meeting of the Trade Policy Forum (TPF).

"He highlighted India's concerns on US Totalization and Social Security Act and how the policy was discriminatory towards Indian workers in the US who end up losing their social security contributions due to discrepancy in the visa and social security regimes, also indicating recourse to legal remedies," an official statement said.

The meeting comes ahead of the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US later this month.

The statement said issues of high visa costs and corresponding higher wage implications and its impact on India?s IT industry and professionals under the US Immigration Reforms was also mentioned for inclusion in the agenda for the next TPF meet.

A US law had substantially increased the fees for H1B and L1 categories of visas for applicants which employ more than 50 persons in the US or have more than 50 per cent their employees admitted on non-immigrant visas (the 50:50 rule).

India wants early conclusion of the Totalisation Agreement with America. Under this pact an expatriate in either country need not contribute to social security schemes of the host country.

The United States Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernisation Bill, 2013 seeks to deny access to visas or place additional visa related restrictions including higher fees.

The meeting of officials took place as part of an inter-ministerial discussion to deliberate on the agenda setting, modalities and dates for convening the next ministerial level meeting of the TPF.

"The issues that are likely to be taken up for discussion at the next TPF from both sides were deliberated at length," the statement said. The Indian side proposed two set of dates for hosting the next meeting in India before the end of this year, it added.

Further, Kher also sought information on reauthorisation of the Generalised System of Preference (GSP) which expired in July, 2013 and is awaiting Congressional approval.

In the two-hour long meeting, Modi?s visit to the US also came up for discussion besides India's stand on the food security and Trade Facilitation as part of the WTO's Bali agreement.