Proposed US visa curbs violate world trade rules: India

13 Jul 2016


The new curbs on non-immigrant visas being considered by the US are more blatant violations than the sharp hike in visa fees for professionals slapped earlier and India could be approaching the World Trade Organisation if these are implemented.

The proposed visa rules violate multilateral trade rules more blatantly than the earlier decision to sharply increase visa fees for professionals, a government official said.

''The new bill completely disregards the General Agreement on Trade in Services as it talks about prohibiting companies from hiring on H1B and L1 visas. GATS does not allow such restrictions,'' BusinessLine quoted an official as saying.

''Since we have already challenged the US decision to impose higher visa fees, it will not be difficult to challenge the new proposal as both basically are targeted against our IT industry,'' the report quoted the official as saying.

New Delhi has already challenged the US decision to impose higher visa fees for workers hired on H1B and L1 visas by Indian IT firms at the WT as these firms employ a considerable number of non-Americans, mostly Indians.

India will initially approach the US Trade Representative's office in order to sort out the issue bilaterally, before moving the WTO, the official was quoted as saying.

Introduced by Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell of New Jersey and Republican Dana Rohrabacher from California in the US House of Representatives last week, the H1B and L1 Visa Reform Bill 2016 seeks to prohibit companies from hiring H1B employees if they employ more than 50 people, and more than 50 per cent of the employees are H1B and L1 visa holders.

The new legislation, if implemented, would affect the US operations of Indian IT companies such as Infosys and Wipro, which employ a high number of Indian IT professionals. For the proposal to get implemented, the US Senate will have to pass the bill and it has to be signed into law by the US President.

Washington's decision to double fees for H1B and L1 visas to $4,000 and $4,500, respectively, has already put Indian IT companies under financial pressure and the new bill would further stress their operations in the United States.

The US accounts for close to 60 per cent of software exports from India, while Indian IT professionals are contributing to the competitiveness of the US economy as well, according to IT body Nasscom.

Indian IT firms currently support over 400,000 jobs through their US operations while also paying over $20 billion in taxes to the US Treasury between 2011 and 2015.

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