US visa fee hike discriminatory, targets Indian IT firms: Arun Jaitley

  • Yashwant Raj, Washington
  • Updated: Apr 16, 2016 09:40 IST
Union finance minister Arun Jaitley speaks at Carnegie Endowment on the sidelines of 2016 Spring Summit of World Bank/International Monetary Fund in Washington DC on Wednesday. (PTI)

Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday told the US that recent hikes in H-1B and L-1 visa fees for foreign workers were discriminatory and “largely targeted at Indian companies”.

The US Congress in last December levied a new $4,000 fee on H-1B (and $4,500 for L-1 applications) for firms with 50 employees that have at least 50% of them on such visa.

While H-1B visa allows companies to hire highly skilled foreign workers if they are unable to find the required talent locally, L-1 is for intra-company transfers.

India was alarmed by the fee hikes that came close on the heels of IT giants TCS, Infosys and Wipro coming under concerted attack from lawmakers and unions over layoffs.

Jaitley conveyed India’s concerns to US trade representative Mike Forman, whose office annually lists countries that, it believes, discriminate against American companies.

Jaitley told Froman that the fee hikes were “discriminatory and in effect, largely targeted at Indian IT companies,” the finance ministry said in a statement.

The visa fee hike issue figured prominently at a Republican presidential debate — TCS was named — with frontrunner Donald Trump saying he favoured a pause in the H-1B programme to review it.

Jaitley is in Washington for the annual spring meetings of the World Bank group, and is meeting his US counterpart and other officials on the sidelines.

The finance minister also raised with Froman the long-pending issue of “totalisation”, social security (something like Provident Fund in India) collected from Indians working in the US.

India wants the US to hand over the money thus collected — an estimated $1 billion contributed by Indian workers annually — as it does under agreements with other countries. India has totalisation agreements with 15 countries and the US with 24.

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