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H-1B visa issue: We will find a solution, US to India

Washington: The US hopes to work with India to address its concerns about the recent hike in H-1B and L1 visa fee in order to find an ‘acceptable alternative solution’ to the critical issue that threatens to hurt the bilateral economic ties, a top Obama Administration official has said.

“It (visa fee hike) is an issue the administration is hoping to work with India to see if we can come up with an acceptable alternative solution,” US Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, told the popular ‘Mercury News’ of the Silicon Valley.

“We’d like to see if we can find a way to do that so it is not as offensive to some of our important partners like India, as this is perceived to be,” Kirk said.

His remarks came in response to a question on the recent hike in fees for H-1B and L-1 visas for foreign companies, particularly outsourcing giants from India, which has created an uproar in India.

The fees for H-1B visas, which soared from USD 320 to USD 2,320, will help pay for a USD 650 million effort to increase security along the US-Mexico border.

India’s IT industry says the move will cost them USD 200 million a year.

“It (visa fee hike) has not been well-received in India,” Kirk said. “We have heard from a lot of our colleagues (in India). It will hopefully be a subject of our (US-India) Trade Policy Forum (sponsored by Kirk’s office and India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, Anand Sharma,) in a couple of weeks,” said the US Trade Representative.

Kirk also appeared to be dissatisfied with the steps taken by the US Congress with regard to H-1B visa, which is said to be the life line of the Silicon Valley. He argued that this is an economic issue, while the Congress takes this as an immigration matter.

“The reality is, Congress is zealous about its right to determine immigration policy. We see this as an economic issue but Congress feels it should be seen as part of our overall immigration policy,” he said.

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