India will seek consultations with the US under the aegis of WTO this week on visa fee hike for professionals, which "discriminates" against Indian software companies that send employees to America on short-term contracts.
"We have finalised our case. The US visa fee hike is a discriminatory move against Indian IT firms. This week, we will formally file the complaint and seek consultations under WTO," a senior commerce and industry ministry official told PTI.
As per the procedure of World Trade Organisation (WTO), consultation is the first stage of a complaint filed with the global trade body.
The US had raised visa fee in 2010 to fund its enhanced costs on securing border with Mexico under the Border Security Act. India has been protesting against the measure at different forums.
Consultations give the parties an opportunity to discuss the matter and to find a satisfactory solution without proceeding further with litigation. After 60 days, if consultations fail to resolve the dispute, the complainant may request adjudication by a panel.
Recently minister of state for commerce and industry Jyotiraditya Scinida has informed Parliament that an American law (Emergency Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2010) has substantially increases the fees for H-1B and L-1 categories of visas for applicants that employ more than 50 employee in the US or have more than 50 % of their employees admitted or non-immigrant visas (the "50/50 rule").
"... which is prima facie discriminatory for Indian companies," Scindia has said.
The official said that the H1B visa fee has been increased to $ 2,000 per visa application and L1 by $ 2,700 per visa application.
"The date and place (of these consultations) have not been finalised," the official said adding the US measure is violating the WTO rules.
Some of the top Indian companies TCS, Infosys, Wipro and Mahindra Satyam were affected by the US action on visa fee. The US is the largest market for the Indian software exports.
However, the large American high-tech corporations which may bring higher numbers of skilled immigrants into the US would not be affected, since vast majority of their workforce is of Americans.