Finance Minister Arun Jaitley
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley

SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — India’s finance minister Arun Jaitley has expressed concern over the hike in the U.S. visa fee, calling it “discriminatory,” and saying it unfairly targets Indian IT professionals.

During a meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Michael Froman, Jaitley called for a quicker resolution to Totalization Agreement which would benefit Indians working in America. While addressing his concerns surrounding the visa program, he spoke about “India’s concern over the hike in the H-1B and L1 visa fee, which is discriminatory and in effect is largely targeted at Indian IT companies.”

Last year, congress imposed a special fee of up to $4,500 on H-1B and L-1 visas — two of the most popular among Indian engineers — to fund a 9/11 healthcare Act and biometric tracking system. While agreeing on the terms of the $1.1 trillion spending bill, congressional leaders decided to impose the special fees on H-1B and L-1 visas.

According to industry estimates, Indian professionals contributed more than $25 billion to U.S. social security in the past decade, without being to retrieve their contributions. Jaitley’s calling for a solution to the Totalization Agreement — an agreement the U.S. enters into with several nations for the purpose of avoiding double taxation of income with respect to social security taxes — would fix this issue.

Under Jaitley’s proposal, professionals from both countries would be exempt from social security taxes while working for a short period of time in the other’s country. The two countries are also engaged in negotiations for a bilateral investment treaty to protect investments.

The finance minister also emphasized the importance of sustaining engagement and fostering further growth in trade and investments between the two countries as key elements, saying India looks forward to strengthening and deepening this economic engagement. Jaitley is currently traveling through Washington D.C. to attend the Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other sessions.

Traveling with him are RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan, Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das, and Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian and other officials.