Prabhu Visa

Union Minister Suresh Prabhu (right), seen here with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Oct. 28 said that India has “very strongly” raised the H-1B and L1 visa program issues with the U.S., saying the country’s economy will falter without Indian IT professionals working in the states. (Suresh Prabhu/Twitter photo)

WASHINGTON — India has "very strongly" raised the issue of H-1B and L1 visas with the U.S., Union Minister Suresh Prabhu said Oct. 28, asserting that the American economy will find it difficult to cope with the reality as it has been immensely benefited by Indian IT professionals.

The U.S. has tightened the norms for issuing the most sought-after H-1B and L1 visas in line with the Trump administration's goal to protect American workers from discrimination and replacement by foreign labor.

In a new directive, the Trump administration has made it more difficult for the renewal of H-1B and L1 visas, popular among Indian IT professionals, saying that the burden of proof lies on the applicant even when an extension is sought.

Under the current U.S. rules, Indian IT professionals working in the country 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 year.

“We raised very strongly the issue of Indian professionals and H-1B and L1 visa issues,” Prabhu said after the first U.S.-India bilateral Trade Policy Forum under the Trump administration which was also attended by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

“We explained to them that we are not raising this issue because Indians will find it difficult to come, because U.S. economy itself will find it difficult to cope with the reality because the U.S. has immensely benefited by IT professionals penetrating into the market by offering services that has improved their productivity,” Prabhu said.

Batting for Indian IT companies, he also strongly raised the issue of totalization.

“I hope they will look into the issue,” Prabhu said, as he pointed out towards the issue of mismatch between U.S. visa and U.S. social security regimes, wherein Indian professionals making social security contributions do not receive their due benefits upon their return to India.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and India have also agreed to address the issue of trade deficit by increasing and diversifying bilateral trade, the minister said as he sought easing of procedures for export of mangoes and pomegranates to the U.S.

Taking note of America's concern on price controls on medical devices, Prabhu, during his meetings with Lighthizer Oct. 26, encouraged U.S. companies to take benefit of the “Make in India” policy and establish manufacturing facilities in India which would considerably bring down the cost.

During the inaugural India-U.S. Commercial dialogue, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross stressed the need to increase bilateral trade between the two countries to address the issue of trade imbalance, a point which keeps on popping up in the remarks of President Donald Trump.

Reducing imports from India is not an option, Ross was quoted as saying by Prabhu.

“The commerce secretary clearly said that trade deficit is an issue, but not by reducing imports from India but promoting more exports from the U.S. to India which is absolutely a very positive and an extremely forward-looking idea, which we welcome,” Prabhu told reporters at the conclusion of his two-day visit to Washington, D.C.

In the next few years' time, India would actually be able to buy more from the U.S. India has started buying crude oil from the U.S., he said, adding that there is great potential for the United States in the fast expanding aviation market in India.

Indian aviation companies such as Spicejet and Jet Airways have placed orders for over 300 aircraft worth several billions of dollars.

As American companies shift their manufacturing base from China to the U.S., this would also result in more American exports to India, Prabhu said.

He said that the two countries have agreed to work on the issue of poultry, pork and intellectual property right.

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