India to take up visa rejections issue with US

Arun S. New Delhi | Updated on March 27, 2012 Published on January 03, 2012

Alarmed at an increase in the rate of US visa rejection faced by the Indian Information Technology professionals, New Delhi is set to raise the matter with Washington at the bilateral Trade Policy Forum (TPF) meeting on January 12-13.

Besides, India will take up the issue of the fee hike for H1B and L category US visas; and the detention of some basmati rice consignments in the US due to the alleged presence of traces of the pesticide tricyclazole, official sources told Business Line.

The other main topics where New Delhi would engage Washington's attention include an early signing of Totalisation Agreement; as well as ‘barriers' faced by India's mango exports to the US, including the high costs in meeting US radiation protection standards.

US push

On its part, the US is expected to push for opening up of India's multi-brand retail trade to Foreign Direct Investment; raise its concern over certain proposals that could ‘curb' FDI in brown field pharma projects and the proposal for mechanism for an oversight by the Competition Commission of India to look at the impact of acquisitions; take up their complaint against the 30 per cent local sourcing requirement in India's solar power generation programme; India's restriction on US diary imports; as well as reduction of tariffs in industrial products in general.

The TPF — currently co-chaired by the Commerce, Industry and Textiles Minister, Mr Anand Sharma, and the United States Trade Representative, Mr Ron Kirk — is the ‘premier bilateral forum for the discussion and resolution of bilateral trade and investment issues'.

Usually, the talks in the TPF are around Focus Groups covering: Services; Investment; Agriculture; Tariffs and Non-Tariff Barriers; Innovation and Creativity.

But for the first time, at the suggestion of the US, the TPF is being ‘restructured' and the talks on January 12 will be conducted in groups where specific issues will be taken up with a view to resolve them. This is being done to make the TPF ‘more result-oriented'.

India is mainly concerned about the visa issues as it has affected IT majors such as Infosys, TCS and Wipro as well as over 45,000 IT-related professionals travelling between the two countries. The software industry body Nasscom has made representations to the Indian Government on the problems faced due to delays and rejection in the issue of short-term visas.

There were reports of a fall in the L1 visa approvals for Indian IT professionals. India's IT exports for 2011-12 is seen at $69 billion. The US accounts for over half of India's software exports.

Similar pacts

To get the US to see ‘reason' in signing the bilateral Totalisation Agreement, New Delhi will cite similar pacts India has inked with some developed countries.

Besides, the sources said the absence of a Totalisation Agreement with the US is burdening the Indian IT sector as they are required to pay over $1 billion annually to the US Government in the form of social security, without any benefit or prospect of refund.

Published on January 03, 2012
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