US tells India they are the "greatest beneficiaries" of H-1B and L-1 visa

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Following India's announcement to lodge a complaint about the US at the World Trade Organisation over the increase in US visa fees, the US assured India that it continued to fully support the admission of qualified Indian works.

US State department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that the US and India "did have a good and thorough discussion" on the visa issues with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"Indians are the greatest beneficiaries in the world of both our L-1 visa programme and our H-1B visa programme," Clinton said, adding that in 2011, 35 percent of all L-1 work visas in the US had been issued to Indians.

"We understand that the demand is even greater. We are working through those issues. But we continue to fully support the admission of qualified Indians under these programmes," Nuland added.

Under a 2010 US law H-1B and L-1 visa fees nearly doubled fees from $2,500 to $4,500 for firms with more than a 50 percent non-American workforce. The bill's sponsor, Senator Charles Schumer, noted at the time that the law was aimed at a small group of IT companies exploiting US law to import workers from abroad. The companies have denied the allegations and Indian industry officials called the legislation discriminatory.

"We have come a long way since my first visit to India. In 1995, trade stood at $9 billion. This year, we expect to surpass $100 billion. But, I truly believe that there is much more potential to unleash. We should be working towards having one of the world's largest trading relationships. We need to continue to reduce barriers and open our markets to greater trade and investment," Clinton said.

Also, it is important to note that as of 4 May 2012, US Citizenship & Immigration Services has announced that it has already received 32,500 H-1B cap-subject petitions out of the 65,000 available visas. Additionally, they have already received 13,700 H-1B visa petitions for foreigners with US advanced degrees out of the 20,000 available visas. This means that on 4 May 2012 there were only 27,500 visas left under the H-1B regular visa cap and 6,300 for the H-1B visa advanced degree level visa cap.

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