US visa fee hike discriminatory, targets Indian IT companies: Arun Jaitley
Washington: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today came down heavily on a decision by the US to hike visa fee saying that it is "discriminatory" and largely affects Indian IT professionals.
Jaitley said that the hike in the H-1B and L1 visa fee is not a good sign for India and is a rising concern for the country.
Last year, the US Congress imposed a special fee of up to $4,500 on H-1B and L-1 visas -- popular among Indian IT companies -- to fund a 9/11 healthcare Act and biometric tracking system.
While agreeing on the $1.1 trillion spending Bill, Congressional leaders decided to impose a special fee of $4,000 on certain categories of H-1B visas and $4,500 on L-1 visas.
Present at a bilateral meeting with US Trade Representative Ambassador Michael Froman, Jaitley also expressed concern over Totalisation Agreement and said that it should be concluded soon in order to benefit working Indians in America.
As per Industry estimates, Indian professionals contributed more than $25 billion to the US Social Security during the last decade, without being able to retrieve their contributions.
The US has entered into agreements called 'Totalization Agreements' with several nations for the purpose of avoiding double taxation of income with respect to social security taxes.
Under these, professionals of both the countries would be exempted from social security taxes when they go to work for a short period in the other country. The two countries are also engaged in negotiations for a Bilateral Investment Treaty to protect investments.
The finance minister emphasised on sustained engagement and a rapidly increasing trade and investment partnership between India and the US as key elements, saying India looks forward to strengthening and deepening this economic engagement.
Jaitley is currently on an official trip to Washington DC to attend the Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank and other sessions.
He is accompanied by RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan, Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das, and chief economic advisor Arvind Subramanian and other officials.
(With PTI inputs)