India has charged the U.S. over a hike in visa fees, which it claims is aimed at Indian companies, and will soon file an official case with the World Trade Organisation.
"We have finalised our case. The U.S. visa fee hike is a discriminatory move against Indian IT firms. This week, we will formally file the complaint and seek consultations under WTO," a senior Commerce and Industry Ministry official told the Press Trust of India.
"The date and place (of these consultations) have not been finalised," said minister of state for commerce and industry Jyotiraditya Scinida.
India took up the matter with the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body months earlier but failed to strengthen its case against the unfair visa norms imposed on Indian professionals with short-term contracts, Business Standard reported.
India will first seek consultation with the WTO, the first step toward filing a complaint. Consultations provide the parties the benefit of avoiding lawsuit proceedings, while trying to resolve the dispute, PTI said.
According to the news agency report, the hike in visa fees was undertaken in 2010 under a U.S. law, the Emergency Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, which proposes steep H-1B and L-1 visa fees for companies that have a workforce of at least 50 and employ more than 50 percent of their employees on non-immigrant visas. The fee for a L1 application has been hiked by $2,700, and the H1B fee stands at $2,000 extra.
The U.S. is a major software importer from India, and the act has affected several top Indian companies including TCS, Infosys, Mahindra Satyam and Wipro.
Scinida raised the issue in the parliament recently. U.S. officials assured that the increased fees "makes sense" and would maintain a "robust and vital" relationship with India.
"I think the United States and India have a robust and vital relationship, and nothing in this bill should interfere with that," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said two years ago.
Meanwhile, trade relations between the two nations are spiraling downwards with India taking US to the WTO over duties imposed on Indian steel imports last April. A consultation concerning the matter is due in Geneva on May 31 and June 1.
There's also the James Zadroga Act, under which countries under the non-government procurement agreement will be levied 2 percent additional tax for their imports. India claimed the act violates the WTO's National Treatment Policy, according to the Business Standard.
Earlier this year, the U.S. resorted to the global trade body against India's restrictions on its agricultural exports. Despite consultations with the U.S., Indian government failed to lift the ban on American poultry imports and a dispute settlement was proposed to decide the matter.