FM Jaitley calls US visa fee hike discriminatory

RSTV Bureau
Washington: Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley shakes hands with Ambassador Michael Froman, US Trade Representative  on the sidelines of 2016 Spring Summit of World Bank/International Monetary Fund in Washington DC on Wednesday. PTI Photo

Washington: Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley shakes hands with Ambassador Michael Froman, US Trade Representative on the sidelines of 2016 Spring Summit of World Bank/International Monetary Fund in Washington DC on Wednesday. PTI Photo

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who is in the US to attend World Bank and IMF meetings, has called the hike in visa fees for Indians “discriminatory”. He expressed concern over the US imposed hike and said the new fee structure largely affects Indian IT professionals.

Jaitley raised the matter during a bilateral meeting with US Trade Representative Ambassador Michael Froman.

Referring to the visa issue, he spoke about “India’s concern over the hike in the H-1B and L1 visa fee, which is discriminatory and in effect is largely targeted at Indian IT companies”.

Last year, the US Congress imposed a special fee of up to USD 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 USD 1.1 trillion spending Bill, Congressional leaders decided to impose a special fee of USD 4,000 on certain categories of H-1B visas and USD 4,500 on L-1 visas.

As per Industry estimates, Indian professionals contributed more than USD 25 billion to the US Social Security during the last decade, without being able to retrieve their contributions.

The FM underlined the need for early conclusion of Totalisation Agreement which would benefit Indians working in America.

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 will 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 also 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 inputs from agencies)