U.S. to look into India’s concerns on visa fee hike

At the 2nd India-U.S. Strategic and Commercial Dialogue in New Delhi, the two sides also discuss ways to enhance cooperation in key areas of energy and trade and business.

August 30, 2016 04:37 pm | Updated November 17, 2021 04:13 am IST

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj prior to a meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday. Photo: V. Sudershan.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj prior to a meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday. Photo: V. Sudershan.

The U.S. on Tuesday agreed to “look into” India’s concerns on the Obama administration’s move to hike fees for H1B and L1 visas. India Inc. raised the issue at the India-U.S. CEO Forum, saying the move hurt Indian IT firms, which are the main users of these non-immigrant temporary work visas.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said India conveyed its concerns to the U.S. during the bilateral Strategic & Commercial Dialogue.

The visa fee hike has “affected our people-to-people exchanges… I would urge you to find a just and non-discriminatory solution to these issues,” Ms. Swaraj told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said, “When [Indian] industry expresses concerns about their feeling of being targeted [through a visa fee hike]…. it is imperative that we look into that issue.”

Ms. Swaraj also sought Mr. Kerry’s support for a resolution on the delay in entering into an agreement on totalisation.

According to India, the absence of a totalisation pact is imposing a burden on the Indian software sector as they have to shell out over $1 billion per year to the U.S. Government towards social security, with no benefit or prospect of refund.

Govt Procurement

Ms. Sitharaman said India and the U.S. will look at best practices exchange as well as collaboration on government procurement.

Taking forward innovation and entrepreneurship work stream, both the nations will look at creating a platform for sharing of best practices and technology as well as address issues of finance and market access for small & medium enterprises (SME). This is to promote integration of SMEs into global value chains. India and the U.S. also have agreed on a programme called “Silicon Valley comes to India’ which will have experts from the U.S. coming to India to interact with start ups and provide the required momentum to Indian entrepreneurial eco-system.

Both sides also decided to add ‘Travel and Tourism’ as a new work stream for future collaboration.

On the delay in negotiations on a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), Ms. Sitharaman said India has shared its model BIT text with the U.S. and was awaiting a response.

Ms. Pritzker said only a “high standard” BIT will help in significantly boosting bilateral investments. “It is not in our interest to negotiate a pact that does not meet high standards,” she said.

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