22 May 2012

India’s US visa complaint goes to WTO

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India's complaint over apparent discrimination in US visa applications for overseas workers goes to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) this week.

US immigration

India will formally lodge their complaint over alleged US visa discrimination with the World Trade Organisation this week.

India has accused America of apparent discrimination in US visa applications for IT workers after fees for the H-1B and L1 visas were almost doubled to $4,500 (£2,852) for companies with more than 50 employees, known as the 50-50 rule.

"We have finalised our case. The US visa fee hike is a discriminatory move against Indian firms," said a senior Commerce and Industry Ministry Official.

India had originally complained to WTO's Dispute Settlement Body to resolve the issue but the case fell through due to the complaint's 'technical and complex nature' according to the official and India will now seek consultations with the US.

"This week, we will formally file the complaint and seek consultations under WTO."

Consultation is the first stage of a complaint and will give both parties the opportunity to discuss the matter before litigation becomes a necessity; the US argues that visa policy does not discriminate against Indian workers and the visa price increases are part of a tightening of US immigration policy across the board.

The rate of rejection from Indian applications has risen to over 20% since the price increase; India argues that rejection rates from other countries with high numbers of applications such as the UK remained constant at less than 5%.

"This is a complex and highly technical case," said the official. "So we are fine tuning our consultation case. We are going to challenge that this 50-50 rule is a discriminatory move only against India, as it accounts for the major share of the IT and ITeS [information technology-enabled services] sectors in the US.

"This is not affecting any other country. We are going to send an official notification to the US on this soon."

The US and India's trade relationship is worth in excess of $100 billion (£63 billion) a year and faces uncertain times over the allegations.

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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