India Expresses Concern on `Discriminatory' U.S. Bill

India called a proposed U.S. bill that could double visa costs as “highly discriminatory” and said such a measure will erode the competitiveness of the nation’s software services companies.

In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, India’s Trade Minister Anand Sharma said the legislation will hurt primarily companies of Indian origin, according to a statement on the government’s website today. If it becomes law, the bill that was passed unanimously by the U.S. Senate on Aug. 5 is likely to add $2,000 to fees for companies with more than half their employees on work visas.

The Senate fee increases are aimed at helping to finance a $600 million effort to boost security at the U.S.-Mexican border, including the addition of 1,500 guards and other officials. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, who sponsored the bill, said the technology-services companies add to unemployment in the U.S. by outsourcing jobs to foreign workers.

“Though the need of the U.S. government to strengthen their border security is understandable, it is inexplicable to our companies to bear the cost of such a highly discriminatory law,” according to the Indian government statement. Indian companies account for less than 12 percent of the visas issued in the U.S., it said.

Shares Drop

Shares of Infosys Technologies Ltd., Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. and Wipro Ltd. declined in Mumbai trading. Tata Consultancy, the country’s largest, fell 1.7 percent; Infosys, the second-biggest dropped 1.6 percent and Wipro slid 2.1 percent on the Bombay Stock Exchange, compared with a 0.4 percent loss in the benchmark Sensitive Index.

Technology companies such as Wipro and Infosys bring skilled workers from overseas, often from India, into the U.S. to develop software and manage projects for customers in the country. The bill could cost such companies up to $250 million a year, Som Mittal, president of Nasscom, a trade association for Indian information-technology companies, said Aug. 6.

The majority of U.S. workers for the India-based companies are in the U.S. on what are known as H-1B and L-1 visas, the companies say in regulatory filings. The law wouldn’t affect U.S. technology companies such as International Business Machines Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Google Inc. since less than half their workers use work visas.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kartik Goyal in New Delhi at kgoyal@bloomberg.net; Unni Krishnan in New Delhi at ukrishnan2@bloomberg.net

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