Indian IT industry to oppose US bill on visa fee hike

August 13th, 2010 - 5:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, Aug 13 (IANS) The Indian IT industry will soon take up with the US Administration and the Congress the impact of the imminent hike in visa fee on its on-site engineers deployed in American firms.
“We understand that US President Barak Obama will sign the bill into law later in the day (Friday). We will soon work with his government and the Congress to mitigate the impact upon our IT firms,” industry’s representative body Nasscom said in a statement Friday.

Expressing frustration over the profound lack of understanding in the US Congress of the contribution by the Indian IT firms to the American economy through innovation and job creation, Nasscom president Som Mittal said the revised fee may discourage some firms from hiring talent needed to expand and create more jobs.

“The US government has a legitimate right to protect its borders, but foreign firms should not be asked to bear the cost of this,” Mittal asserted.

Unmindful of India and corporate America’s concerns, Obama is set to sign into law the legislation to secure the US-Mexico border with $600 million raised by hiking fee on H1-B and L-1 work visas, used largely by Indian IT bellwethers TCS, Infosys, Wipro and Satyam Mahindra.

In fact, a summary of the bill named all the four Indian firms-Wipro, Tata, Infosys and Satyam, which send thousands of employees each year to the US to work at their clients’ locations as technicians and engineers.

The legislation proposes to raise the fee on H-1B visas for companies, which have over 50 percent of their employees on such visas for skilled professionals to $2,320 from $320. Similarly, the fee on L-1 visas given to multi-national transferees is hiked to $2,270 from $320.

Though the Indian IT industry accounts for a fraction of the US technology business, Mittal said it was shocking that US Democratic Senator Charles Schumer chose to blame the Indian firms for all generic issues such as growing unemployment, lower wages and students not taking up technology education.

“It is also disheartening that lack of interest for American students to go in for technology education is being linked to this,” Mittal pointed out.

Schumer, a lead sponsor of the measure who branded Indian IT major Infosys as a “chop shop” during the Senate debate, offered up the bill, and fellow Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin gavelled it approved.

The H-1B visa applied by Indian firms is related to the US employment scenario. In 2009, the top 10 Indian companies filed for only 4,555 visas, a mere six percent of the total visas issued.

Noting that the bill and Schumer’s comments were election rhetoric and based on a flawed logic that was discriminatory, Mittal regretted that the senator chose to ignore facts and the role the Indian IT industry played in enhancing the US business competitiveness.

“The Indian industry has added significantly to the US competitiveness and its professionals have been good citizens, contributing to social security, local taxes, creating local employment, and contributing to the community,” Mittal noted.

Mittal also hinted that the proposed law would impact the pace and level of cooperation between India and the US at the government and business levels.

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