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NEW DELHI: Amid the tightening of visa norms in the US, India has “very strongly” raised the issue of H-1B and L1 visas asserting that the American economy has been immensely benefited by the Indian IT professionals.
Union Minister Suresh Prabhu after the first US-India bilateral Trade Policy Forum (TPF) under the Trump administration, which was also attended by US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, said, “We raised very strongly the issue of Indian professionals and H-1B and L1 visa issues.”
The minister further said, “We explained to them that we are not raising this issue because Indians will find it difficult to come, because US economy itself will find it difficult to cope with the reality because the US has immensely benefited by IT professionals penetrating into the market by offering services that has improved their productivity.”
Prabhu flagged concerns related to “protectionist measures” that are impacting Indian services and pointed to persistent problems in getting H-1B and L1 visas through annual caps, higher fees and a high rejection rate.
This week in a new directive, the Trump administration made it more difficult for the renewal of H-1B and L1 saying that the burden of proof lies on the applicant even when an extension is sought.
H-1B visas are immensely popular among the Indian IT professionals. Under the current US rules, the Indian IT professionals working in the US on H-1B visas do not get back their hard-earned contribution to Social Security, which runs into at least more than $1 billion per annum.
After China, the US was India’s second largest partner with total merchandise trade estimated at $65.5 billion in 2016-17. With exports of $42 billion, India enjoyed a surplus of almost $20 billion, which is a growing concern for the US. Prabhu is understood to have called for a need to appreciate the fact that India has actually been importing at much higher level than its per capita income or overall GDP would suggest. He then pointed to contracts to purchase crude oil & LNG and orders by Indian airlines for Boeing aircraft to suggest the steps will lower the trade deficit.
The minister also defended the price control on medical devices such as stents, something that the US has objected to, arguing that the government needs to strike a balance between demand for optimum medical facilities and affordable healthcare to a large number of people.