India drags US to WTO on visa fee hike

New Delhi: India has dragged the US to the WTO challenging the visa fee hike which discriminates against the Indian software companies sending professionals to the US on short-term contracts.

"Yes, we have sought consultations with the US on the issue," a senior Commerce Ministry official said. As per the procedure of the World Trade Organisation, consultation is the first stage of a complaint launched in the global trade body.

The US had raised visa fee in 2010 to fund its enhanced costs on its securing its border with Mexico under the Border Security Act. India has been protesting against the measure and raising its concern for the last 18 months.

The law substantially increased the fees for H1B and L1 categories of visas for applicants which employ more than 50 persons in the US or have more than 50 per cent their employees admitted on non-immigrant visas (the 50:50 rule).

Before India`s complaint goes to the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) of the Geneva-based WTO, the parties to the dispute are required to engage into bilateral consultations. The process takes about two months.

"The date and place (of these consultations) have not been finalised," the official said adding the US measure is violating of the WTO rules.

Some of the top Indian companies – TCS, Infosys, Wipro and Mahindra Satyam – were affected by the US action on visa fee. The US is the largest market for the Indian software exports.