New Delhi: Terming a US proposal to increase
visa fees as discriminatory, Commerce and Industry Minister
Anand Sharma today said the increase would cost Indian firms
USD 200 million extra a year and make them less competitive.
"The Bill will have an (estimated) additional cost
implication of over USD 200 million annually and an adverse
impact on the competitiveness and commercial interests of
Indian companies....," Sharma said in a letter to US Trade
Representative Ron Kirk.
The US Senate on August 5 had approved a substantial
increase in application fees for H1 B and L visas, the most
sought after Indian IT professionals. The hike is proposed to
fund a USD 600 million emergency package to improve security
along the porous Mexican border.
The Senate measure increases the visa fee to USD 2,000
per application on those companies that have less than 50 per
cent of their employees as American citizens.
In his letter, Sharma conveyed the concerns of the Indian
software industry that the increase in US visa fee would
adversely impact companies of Indian origin, which account for
about 12 per cent of the total number of visas issued by the
Sharma said though the need of the US Government to
strengthen their border security is understandable, "it is
inexplicable to our companies to bear the cost of such a
highly discriminatory law".
While the US companies use H-1B and L visas in larger
numbers, they will not be liable for the increased fees but
Indian companies will be affected as they are likely to
have more than 50 per cent of the their employees on these
Sharma further said that the Indian software industry is
already deeply burdened in the absence of a Totalisation
Agreement, requiring them to pay more than USD 1 billion every
year to the US government in the form of social security, with
no benefit or prospect of refund.
The proposed massive increase in visa application fee
would primarily affect the top Indian IT companies, who rely
majorly on these categories of visas to continue with their
work in the US.
Software giant Infosys had said yesterday that the hike US visa fees is discriminatory and did not help create an open