US visa hike ‘against WTO rules’ says Indian govt

India’s Trade Secretary has warned that the country may challenge the US government over its plan to increase the price of a working visa.

Rahul Khullar told Reuters that he believes the plan contravenes World Trade Organisation discrimination regulations. "This is WTO incompatible," he said. "I have no doubt about it."

The plan to increase the fee for H-1B visas, which foreign IT staff must acquire in order to work on US soil, by $2,000 to $4,500 will gravely impact the profit margins of Indian outsourcing companies such as TCS, Infosys and Wipro.

Khullar’s appeal to the WTO may be insufficient to avert the plan, however, as the organisation does not have the authority to supercede US law.

Last week, Democrat US Senator Charles Schumer labelled Indian IT services giant Infosys a “chop shop”, in reference to a garage that reassembles stolen cars. He claimed that such companies “outsource good, high-paying American technology jobs to lower wage, temporary immigrant workers from other countries”.

Days later, Schumer played down his comments, claiming that he did not intend to imply illegal behaviour on the part of outsourcers, but at the same time reiterated his stance on the issuing of H-1B visas.

Cash raised by the visa increase will go towards a $600 million initiative to bolster security on the US-Mexican border.

Indian authorities have also expressed concern about a UK government plan to cap immigration. “Though we understand the United Kingdom and European Union regulations, the regime has to be investor friendly and must not come in the way of free movement of investors and professionals," said India’s minister for commerce and industry Anand Sharma last month.

Peter Done

Peter Done is managing director of Peninsula Business Services, the personnel and employment law consultancy he set up having already built a successful betting shop business.

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