Corporate America on Wednesday slammed a US legislation to hike visa fee for highly skilled professionals, saying it discriminates against Indian companies and would undermine burgeoning economic and strategic ties between the two countries.
"This legislation seeks to raise revenue for broader border security by taxing mostly Indian companies that are investing heavily in our country," said US-India Business Council (USIBC) President Ron Somers.
The "discriminatory" bill against foreign companies would undermine investment relations with India as it would largely hurt Indian IT professionals coming to the US on H-1B and L-1 visas, Somers noted.
The House of Representatives Tuesday passed the bill which proposes to raise the fees on H-1B visas for companies who have more than 50 percent of their employees on such visas for highly skilled professionals from $320 to $2,320. Similarly the fee on L visas given to multi-national transferees is hiked from $320 to $2,570.
The Senate had passed a similar plan last week. But since the House version passed in a voice vote is slightly different, it will go back to the Senate for final congressional approval before being signed into law by President Barack Obama.
The bill, Emergency Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, seeks to raise $600 million to secure the US-Mexico border.
"It is unfortunate that the Congress passed a bill that not only links India to border security with Mexico, but also does not take into account the terrible economic impact this will have for the United States," Somers said.
"The Bill imposes substantial and discriminatory fee increases on global information services companies that utilise temporary, non-immigrant visas (H-1 and L-1) to bring in skilled professionals to serve US companies," he said.
USIBC urged the Congress and the Obama Administration to "amend this new funding method for border security and any policies that would harm America's economic interest and undermine the burgeoning economic, trade and strategic relationship with India."
The Washington-based USIBC represents some 350 American companies, including many in Fortune 500 list, like Boeing, Wal Mart, PepsiCo and General Motors and Lockheed Martin that do business in India.
USIBC also expressed outrage over a prime mover of the bill Democrat senator Charles Schumer calling Indian IT major Infosys a "chop shop"- the term often used for the place where stolen cars are dismantled for resale.
"It is totally outrageous in this day in age, when the world is so interconnected by the Internet, that draconian measures would be floated by the US Congress that tar brushes Indian companies as 'chop shops'," Somers said in a statement.
Coming down heavily on various other moves in the US to restrict the movement of high-tech professionals and outsourcing to India, Somers said: "Our companies are creating value around the clock thanks to tie-ups with India, keeping us ahead of the global competition."
"Cutting our nose off to spite our face by imposing restrictions on movement of high-tech professionals will hobble American companies' ability to compete in the global marketplace."