Sharma to seek a meeting with new U.S. Commerce Secretary to resolve visa fee issue

Asserting that India was not in the business of taking away US jobs but was creating new jobs for the new generation, Union Commerce and Industry Minister, Anand Sharma on Saturday said there was no dilution of India`s stand on revocation of the steep fee hike on H-1B and L-1 visas, mostly targeting Indian software companies.

Ruling out India going to the world Trade organization (WTO) on the issue at present, Mr. Sharma said: "I am sure that in the spirit of understanding we will be able to resolve these issues. These are part of the WTO commitments by one and all. There is no dilution in our position to have a re-look at the step hike in visa fee for professionals especially those from India," Mr. Sharma told a group of visiting Indian journalists here.

Mr. Sharma said at the time when there is heavy job loss in the United States, India was creating new jobs on a large scale, a fact that should be appreciated. "Independent studies have shown that if 2.8 million jobs have been outsourced, then another 5.5 million have been created in US. We are not taking away jobs but creating new ones. Our professionals add value to the job and the US officials are also fully apprised of these facts," he remarked.

Mr. Sharma said he would soon seek a meeting with the new U.S. Commerce secretary and take up the matter with him for being addressed in a serious and determined manner. He said a delegation of professionals from NASSCOM and Infosys led by Mohan Das Pai had met him recently and fully apprised me of the problems being faced since the enforcement of the new regime. "We have a very important partnership with U.S. and would like to have the matter resolved keeping in mind India's interests," he stated.

Mr. Sharma said the Commerce Secretary, Rahul Khullar had recently visited the U.S. and had talks on the issue with senior American officials. Mr. Khullar, took up with his U.S. interlocutors several issues including visa fee hike, anti-dumping and the elusive totalisation agreement to enable Indian guest workers in the U.S. to get back their substantial social security contributions.

After his meeting with the U.S. officials, Mr. Khullar was reported as staying: "We have made it amply clear that they have to do something tangible now, because it can't carry on in terms of assurances. If this doesn't get done, then this problem will fester."

The visa fee hike issue has been hanging fire since last August, when the U.S. Congress enacted a controversial legislation, essentially targeting Indian IT firms that are now having to cough up an extra $2,000 to $2,250 per H-1B and L-1 visa application respectively. New Delhi has from time to time conveyed its concerns to the U.S. authorities and even threatened to drag the U.S. to WTO if it failed to resolve the issue to the satisfaction of all.

The India-U.S. trade has been growing in the recent past both in goods and services. During calendar year 2010, the two-way trade shot up to $48.75 billion when compared to the previous highest of $43 billion in 2008. The two-way trade in services, as of 2008, is put at $38 billion, a volume that is more or less balanced with a small surplus in favour of the U.S.

More In: Economy | Business