India can do little against U.S. visa regulations

By SiliconIndia   |   Monday, 27 April 2009, 06:25 Hrs
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New Delhi: Amidst the growing concern in India about the new U.S. visa regime, trade experts warn that the country could do little in multilateral forums like the World Trade Organization to appeal against implementation of such measures, reported Business Standard.

The proposed changes, anchored by Senators Chuck Grassley and Dick Durbin in the U.S. Senate, will adversely impact Indian IT companies like Wipro and Infosys because the firms cannot hire employees under H-1B and L-1 visas if more than half of their workforce hold these two work visas.

Both the visas belong to the non-immigrant category. But H-1B visas are more lucrative, as they are for a longer duration of three years. L-1 visas are for a much shorter duration and are used by employees who are transferred to the U.S. offices of a company. Indian IT firms need to send professionals to onsite centres in the U.S. for long periods and hence look for H-1B visa-holders.

"Trade restrictive practices can be taken up in the WTO if they violate commitments made to the apex global world trade body. The U.S. has not committed anything on visas or movement of professionals from other countries. Hence, other WTO members like India cannot take up the issue in the WTO," said R S Ratna, professor, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade.

Experts suggest that the only immediate solution to the issue is to tone down the proposed visa provisions.

"Current WTO provisions are related to market access. Whatever is being proposed in the U.S. is related to domestic regulations. If the U.S. companies say that restricting access to foreign professionals will adversely impact them, the government may listen to them," said Arpita Mukherjee, professor, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations.

Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, reacted strongly against the proposed amendments. "The Bill will clearly restrict the ability of the Indian IT companies to compete in the U.S. marketplace. This is certainly not in line with the U.S. President's stand against protectionism at the recent London G-20 meeting and our desire to mainstream development in the Doha negotiations," he said.

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