No talks on visa fee hike during Clinton trip

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State of the USA with Nirupama Rao, Ambassador of India to USA at AFS Palam New Delhi.

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Washington DC – India did not raise the topic of an increase in visa fees with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a just concluded visit to the country, according to the US Department of State.

Replying to the question from “India America Today” whether the US visa fee hike issue was raised during the visit, Victoria Nuland, the US State Department spokesperson replied with an emphatic, “No.”

Asked to comment on the reports about India deciding to take the US to the World Trade Organization (WTO) because of the increases, Nuland said, “I’ve heard that there is something out there, but I haven’t heard that there is an affirmative decision by the Indian Government on this front.”

“Indians are the greatest beneficiaries in the world of both our L-1 visa program and our B-1/H-1 visa program,” said Nuland, citing Secretary Clinton’s remarks in India.

“We understand that the demand is even greater. We are working through those issues,” said Nuland, adding, “We continue to fully support the admission of qualified Indians under these programs.”

However, Indian Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Jyotiraditya M. Scindia, on Wednesday told Indian lawmakers that the denial rate for Indian born applicants for the new L-1B visa petition has risen to 13.4 percent in 2010-11, up markedly from 2.8 percent in 2007-08.

“As per the industry reports, this has resulted in many employers being unable to transfer their employees into the US to work on research projects or serve customers,” Scindia said.

The minister also said that India will lodge a complaint with the WTO against the “discriminatory” increase in visa fees by the US.

Using the Emergency Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010, the US recently hiked the fee for H-1B and L-1 visas, commonly used by IT companies to bring workers to the US from other countries. 

“Indian firms, including TCS, Infosys, Wipro and Mahindra Satyam, which fall in the ’50/50′ rule appear liable to pay higher visa fees,” Scindia said in a written reply to Indian lawmakers.

The “50/50 rule” refers to the scenario where companies employ more then 50 persons in the US or have more than 50 percent of their employees admitted on nonimmigrant visas.

In 2010, the fee for certain H-1B petitions was increased by $2,000, and $2,250 for certain L-1A and L-1B petitions. The rate increases will remain in effect through Sept. 30, 2014.

These additional fees apply to petitioners who employ 50 or more employees in the United States with more than 50 percent of its employees in the United States in H-1B or L (including L-1A and L-1B) nonimmigrant status.

Agreeing with a journalist’s description of H-1B, L-1, and similar visas as a “pandemic virus,” Nuland clarified, “There are two categories of visas – one, to come to the United States in an inter – intra-company transfer context. So if you work for Dell India, you can come to Dell US, for example. The other, the H category, is to come to the US for business training.” (IATNS)

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