Discriminatory US H-1B and L-1 visa fee action concerns Nasscom Chief

Despite shrugging of pre-election anti immigration remarks by Donald Trump and others concerning US work visas, the chief of India’s software trade lobby group the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom), R Chandrashekhar, is growing increasingly concerned over what he calls ‘discriminatory plans’ to hike US H-1B and L-1 visa fees.

In December 2015, US Congress doubled the cost of H-1B visa sponsorship to $4,000 each, while L-1 visa sponsorship soared to $4,500, in certain cases. The fee is applicable to firms who employ 50 or more staff in the US, 50 per cent of which are employed on an H-1B or L-1 category non-immigrant visa (L-1A and L-1B visas).

The visa fee hikes mainly impact Indian owned companies in the US. The new charges all form part of a major spending bill that also included the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which finances health screenings and treatments for 9/11 first responders.

On March 4, 2016, the ongoing dispute between India and the US over the doubling of fees escalated when New Delhi lodged a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO). Although the two countries held secret talks at WTO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland on May 13, 2016, the two nations were no closer to resolving the issue.

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Donald Trump effectively plans to ‘kill’ H-1B visa programme

Recently, Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, signalled his intent to raise the minimum wage threshold for the H-1B visa program, effectively killing off access to the visa for Indian IT companies by making it even more expensive. However, with plummeting support in the polls it seems increasingly unlikely that Donald Trump will be President.

Chandrashekhar said: “What we’re seeing on every side is not rhetoric, but actions...In this case, the actions which have already been taken, have been discriminatory and are causing injury to the industry and imposing costs.”

Commenting on India’s decision to refer the issue to the WTO, Chandrashekhar said: “We believe that the US actions are discriminatory and single out the Indian industry for the impact of those measures...Even though the Indian companies were not named as such, it was clear that the entire impact was only and solely on Indian companies.”

“This was the reason, why the industry sought the Indian government’s intervention on the matter, and moved the WTO for remedial action,” Chandrashekhar added.

Workpermit.com understands that the fee hikes will affect three of the big Indian IT firms in particular Tata Consultancy Services Limited, Infosys Limited and Wipro Limited who are listed as the top three companies, out of 20, on Nasscom’s official website.

Chandrashekhar described the fee hikes, not only as discriminatory against Indian firms with operations based in the US, but an ‘attack on corporate American competitiveness.’ He said: “Even as the heat of the elections starts reaching its peak, people are looking beyond that...People are looking at all the logical imperatives namely the shortage of skills in the US and the need for corporate America to remain competitive.”

US Visa Fee hikes won’t impact Indian IT firms

Despite concerns over America’s discriminatory actions, Chandrashekhar maintained that H-1B and L-1 visa fees hikes are not a major cause concern for Indian IT companies. He stated that every time there is a presidential election in the US, work visas for foreign nationals become an issue.

He said: “Right now, I won't say that there is a major cause for concern...The number of visas has remained what it was, the cap has not changed.”

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