10 April 2012

India lodges complaint over US visa policy

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The Indian government has lodged a complaint with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) regarding US immigration policy concerning Indian nationals, claiming fees are too high and rejection rates are disproportionate.

US visa

India has lodged a complaint regarding US visa policy with the World Trade Organisation

Research published in February by the non-partisan National Foundation for American Policy reported that US visa rejections for Indian applicants rose from 3% to over 22% between 2008 and 2009 while  other countries with similar rates of applications reported almost negligible increases or constant rates.

Several Indian IT firms have reported their disappointment both at the report's findings and at the increase in visa fees in 2010, which almost doubled costs to $4,500 per applicant. but now the Indian government has stood behind its IT sector by lodging an official complaint with the WTO, tensions between the two allies are beginning to rise.

"India is taking up consultations on this issue and hopes to solve it amicably," said an Indian Trade Ministry official, who declined to be named.

The official did not state when the complaint was lodged but confirmed that India's trade minister, Anand Sharma, had already raised the issue with America's commerce secretary, John Bryson, last month.

India and American are vital trade partners whose relationship has become increasingly strained over recent years with both sides accusing the other of erecting unfair trade barriers which restrict growth.

American technology firms have benefitted from outsourcing work to India employees yet, as President Obama promises to prioritise American workers over migrants, US immigration law has tightened to discourage some workers.

Yet India feels the change in the laws discriminate against Indian workers specifically and its decision to go to the WTO marks the final step before entering into a legal dispute over the matter.

Vineet Nayyar, CEO of Tech Mahindra, an Indian software exporter, says the government is right to register their anger over the issue, but does not expect the policy to change and instead is taking steps to cope with the change.

"I think by and large the Indian industry is taking for granted that this will continue and we're trying to see how we can manage it."

The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.

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