Anand Sharma to take up visa fee hike with US



New Delhi: Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma will take up the visa fee hike issue during his visit to the US next month, with India hopeful that the matter can be resolved bilaterally.

"When you have trouble with someone, how many times you go running to a court," Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar said, indicating that the matter, which could hurt the interests of Indian professionals, is likely to be resolved bilaterally.

Terming the hike in H-1B and L1 visa fees as WTO- incompatible, he said India cannot "sit by" on an issue that hurts its commercial interests.

"If somebody is going to restrict my (India) provision and harm my commercial interest through regulation, then they should know we will not sit by and watch," Khullar said.

He said the matter is being pursued through diplomatic channels. When asked if the minister will raise the issue with the US authorities during his visit, Khullar said: "Do you think he (Sharma) will not talk about the issue?"

Protesting the American move, Sharma had written to US Trade Representative Ron Kirk early this month saying that the visa fee hike would cost Indian firms an additional USD 200 million a year, making them less competitive.

Under the Emergency Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2010 -- popularly called the Border Security Bill -- the US has hiked the fee for certain categories of H-1B and L1 visas by at least USD 2,000 for the next five years.

The domestic software industry has raised concerns that the increase in fees will adversely impact companies of Indian origin, which account for about 12 per cent of the total number of visas issued by the US.

PTI