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Indian IT majors face US visa fee heat

Indian companies such as Infosys, Wipro, Tata and Mahindra Satyam were earlier made to pay for better policing of the US's borders. They will now be made to pay for health coverage and treatment of 9/11 rescuers.

world Updated: Dec 24, 2010 00:11 IST
Yashwant Raj

Indian companies such as Infosys, Wipro, Tata and Mahindra Satyam were earlier made to pay for better policing of the US's borders. They will now be made to pay for health coverage and treatment of 9/11 rescuers.

A Bill passed on Wednesday by the Senate provides for $4.3 billion over five years for the treatment of the 9/11 first responders - rescue workers such as firefighters and paramedics - suffering from exposure to dust, smoke and toxic fumes.

A part of this money is to be earned by extending the hike in H1-B visa fee brought about in 2010 - to fund better policing of the borders - for another seven years to now end in 2021 instead of 2014.

"This affects outsourcing companies such as Wipro, Tata, Infosys, Satyam - but does not affect American companies such as: Microsoft, Oracle, Intel, Apple, etc," says the homepage of senator Kirsten Gillibrand, one of the sponsors of the bill.

The 2010 hike in the visa fee had angered Indian IT companies who had accused the US of unfair trade practices against outsourcing. Officials has then said it would be impossible to undo the hike as it was mandated by the Congress.

The Bill - called James Zadogra Health and compensation Act 2010 (named after Zadogra, a rescuer who died of ailments suffered caused by exposure to debris and fumes) - has not become law yet, Barack Obama has still to sign it. But he is going to sign it, as the White House has let it be known. Unlike the last time when the hike was not said to be India-centric, this one has Indian companies very much at the forefront, as has been announced by Gillibrand's website.

"This bill will extend this fee until September 30, 2021 to continue leveling the playing field between companies that follow the Congressional intent behind these visa programs and companies that use these visas to outsource American jobs," the senator's website says in support of the funding mechanism.

India had lobbied hard against the last hike. And protested loudly when it failed to stop it. And so had Nasscom, the association of Indfian IT companies. The Indian embassy here could not be immediately reached for a comment.

Gillibrand is a Democratic senator from New York elected from a seat vacated by Hillary Clinton when she became Secretary of state.