Washington: Amid growing resentment among Indian IT firms over US move to hike H1-B and L-1 visa fees, the Obama administration has initiated talks with leaders at the Capitol Hill and business community on the issue.
With President Barack Obama set to visit India in November, the US is keen that the issue does not impact on the fast growing economic ties with India.
The hike in the visa fees to fund new measures would result in Indian IT companies having to shell out up to $250 million annually on visa costs.
But there is no unanimity within the administration on the issue, officials privy to the discussion said.
“This is an issue that we have had conversations with leaders on the Hill about.
We have also had conversations across the government and we are listening to the concerns that business leaders have indicated and will be continuing our dialogue on this issue,” State Department spokesman P J Crowley said.
Corporate America had warned that the passage of the Border Security Bill, which seeks to fund enhanced security measures along the US-Mexico border by raising fees for certain category of visas, would undermine the growing economic relationship between the two countries.
The proposed increase in visa application fee by at least $2,000 for next five years would raise nearly $550 million out of $650 million that have been allocated for increasing the security of the US-Mexico border.
These fee increases would apply only to companies with more than 50 employees and for whom the majority of their workforce is visa-holding foreign workers.
A summary of a Senate version of the bill named Indian firms Wipro, Tata, Infosys and Satyam, which use hundreds of these visas for their employees coming to the United States to work at their clients’ locations as technicians and engineers.
A senior Obama administration official noted that this is “not a done deal yet” and the government is looking at it in depth to resolve the issue by talking with the leaders of the Congress, the business community and those within the government.
“There may be varying views about this within the government. We have to decide what our position is,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
Another official said several people in the Obama administration and the Congress are uncomfortable with the funding measure of the Bill, which essentially attacks the Indian companies.
But given the prevailing mood in the country on the eve of the crucial mid-term election in November, they do not want to be seen in anyway opposing a measure which is strengthening border security, the official observed.