Wednesday, August 11, 2010

India Claims Discrimination in Bill that Recommends Increasing Visa Fees to Foreign Workers in U.S.

"India protests US Senate bill to raise visa fees"

Associated Press Writer Charles Babington contributed to this report in Washington.

"MUMBAI, India — India is protesting a bill in the U.S. Congress that would increase visa fees for foreign workers in the U.S. as discriminating against Indian companies.

"It is inexplicable to our companies to bear the cost of such a highly discriminatory law," the Commerce Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that included excerpts of a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

The legislation would raise fees for H1B and L1 visas, which outsourcing companies use to send workers to the U.S. for project work. The fee increases would only be levied on companies where over half of U.S.-based employees use work visas.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, passed in the Senate last week and in the U.S. House on Tuesday. President Barack Obama is expected to sign it into law. The money the fee increases would raise would be used to pay for heightened security on the U.S.-Mexico border.

India's Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said in his letter to Kirk that the bill would cost Indian companies over $200 million a year.

He argued the bill unfairly targets Indian companies because U.S. companies like IBM, Microsoft and Intel — which he says use more foreign-worker visas than Indian companies — would not be liable for the increased fees because a greater proportion of their workers are American.

Sharma also said Indian software services companies pay over $1 billion each year to the U.S. government in the form of Social Security, "with no benefit or prospect of a refund," an issue that has long irritated New Delhi."

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