US golden visa scheme may be extended: Experts

Dec 5, 2017 0

By Aroonim Bhuyan

New Delhi– Though the three-month extension of the US’ EB5 visa scheme ends on December 8, experts are of the view that the scheme, popularly known as the “Golden Visa”, is likely to be extended.

“Although the discussions over revising the EB5 visa programme have been long due, investors continue to apply as EB5 Visa offers an attractive path to permanent residency in the United States,” Jeff DeCicco, CEO and Chief Compliance Officer of CanAm Investor Services, told IANS in an e-mail interview.

Stating that the current US administration is “very active” in reforming immigration laws, DeCicco said: “While it is highly unlikely the programme will be done away with, there is a high likelihood that the investment amount will be increased. In our opinion, the said increase will not be effective immediately. We feel Congress will give a 30 to 60 days’ notice prior to implementing the new laws.”

Introduced by the US Congress in 1990, the EB5 visa programme allows an individual to invest $500,000 in either of two Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs) — a high unemployment area in a US metropolis or a rural area outside of a metro — or $1 million in a non-TEA area that can create 10 or more jobs and get US citizenship in a shorter time than H1-B visa holders.

With US President Donald Trump calling for stricter norms for issuance of H1-B visas, largely availed by Indian IT firms, the EB5 visa has been in demand for the shorter route to citizenship it offers.

A private member’s bill was also introduced earlier this year in the US Congress by Democrat Zoe Lofgren which seeks to increase the minimum salary of an H1-B visa holder to a whopping $130,000 from the current minimum of $60,000.

At the same time, the EB5 visa programme has also come under controversy with critics saying that it puts up US citizenship for sale. However, the US Congress in September this year extended the scheme by three months.

Stating that authorisation for the EB5 programme has been carried on a temporary basis on Congressional spending bills since September 2015, Rogelio Caceres of LCR Capital said that key figures in the US Senate, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, have been negotiating an EB5 reform bill “in good faith and have made considerable progress”.

“Based on discussions with our team in Washington, D.C., it is very possible that the principal negotiators will come to an agreement in principle in December, which, along with reforms, will likely provide the programme with a five-year reauthorisation,” Caceres said.

Asked what it would mean for Indian applicants in case the EB5 visa scheme gets extended, Mark Davies of Davis and Associates LLC said that Indian applicants needed to be very mindful of two issues looming over the EB5 scheme: A likely price increase and retrogression.

“While most commentators believe the December 8 is a ‘red herring’, combined with these two issues make it highly desirable for Indian investors to make their EB5 move quickly,” Davies said.

Asked about the demographic profile of Indians applying for the EB5 visa, he mentioned students studying in the US, workers on H1B visas already in the US, business owners looking to expand into the US and families looking to relocate to the US.

According to DeCicco, the Trump administration has brought all visas under hard scrutiny.

“They have implemented tougher regulations on immigration and have increased the screening process of applicants under each category,” he said.

“In these times, we feel it is especially important for EB5 investors to work with experienced immigration attorneys and companies that have a long track record of successful EB5 ventures.”

However, Caceres is of the view that the Trump administration supports the EB5 programme as it creates tens of thousands of new American jobs each year, all at no cost to the taxpayer.

“They are keen to see much-needed investor protection reforms instituted to help weed out the bad actors in the programme,” he said.

As for the kind of investments made by Indians under the EB5 programme, Caceres said: “Seventy-four per cent of Indians select real estate projects, as do most other nationalities. Certain areas of the country are also very interested in restaurant franchises and hospitality industries.” (IANS)

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US companies commit continued investments in India

Dec 4, 2017 0

By Aroonim Bhuyan

New Delhi– Representatives of around 45 American companies met Prime Minister Narendra Modi at this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Hyderabad and expressed their commitment to continue investing in India, a top Indian American business leader has said.

Bombay Stock Exchange

These representatives were part of a delegation of the US India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), a newly set-up non-profit organisation focused on deepening business relations between the US and India and enhancing the strategic relationship between the two countries.

“I can’t talk about the specifics (of the meeting with Modi) because it was off the record. But basically the companies did meet with the Prime Minister and they showed their commitment to continued investment into India,” USISPF President Mukesh Aghi told IANS in an interview.

The US looks at building its relationship with India on two broad principles. “One principle is that economic prosperity of India is good for America. And the second principle is a militarily strong India is good for regional stability,” Aghi said.

If India became economically more prosperous and there was more disposable income, people would tend to buy more US goods, or send more of their kids for education to the US, he said.

“If you look at this year, the enrollment of Indian students in the US went up by 12 per cent. So we have 186,000 Indian students in the US,” he stated.

“That’s one. Two, if you look at companies like Amazon, look at Uber, look at WhatsApp or Google, you know they have a tremendous market share in the Indian market. Their businesses grow because consumer spending is growing in India because of economic prosperity.”

On the defence side, Aghi said that if India became more prosperous, it would spend more money on defence.

“If you look at the last three years, the procurement with India has gone up to $15 billion,” he said.

“We are talking Make in India also from the manufacturing perspective of defence equipment. So, I think those principles are driving this relationship.”

On the current business environment in India, Aghi referred to the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings which saw India jumping from the 130th rank to 100th.

“When this government came in 2014, India’s ranking was 142. And now it has come to 100. I think that is a positive sign and we will keep on urging the government to go to below 50. That should be the ambition,” he stated.

About the economic reforms being undertaken by the Indian government, he said these have been certified by credit rating agency Moody’s, which has upgraded India’s sovereign rating to Baa2 from its lowest investment grade of Baa after 14 long years.

“What the government is doing is the right stuff — which seems to send a strong message to investors also. Moody’s ranking is a positive sign, very positive,” he said.

On what were the key takeaways for USISPF from this year’s GES, which was held on the theme “Women First, Priority for All”, Aghi said: “I think the number one takeaway is that start-ups and entrepreneurship are important for job creation. That’s what India needs”.

He also stressed on the involvement and engagement of women entrepreneurs and women workers for the growth of GDP and economy.

“You know, a McKinsey report shows that by 2025, if you engage more women workers, it will have an impact of $12 trillion on the global economy,” the USISPF president said. (IANS)

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No change in H1B visa system: US

Dec 1, 2017 0

Kolkata– Amid the H1B visa row in India, the US government on Friday said there has been no change in law regarding the H1B regime and the system continued to be as before.

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for State for South Asia Thomas Vajda said no legislation has been passed so far on the particular category of visa.

“(There is) no change in the law today for H1B (visa) regime or system in the United States… President (Donald) Trump asked for review of the H1B system…but no steps have been taken. Many changes in law, so many cases, require changes of legislation. But so far no legislation has been passed on H1B. For the moment, the system remains as it has in the past,” Vajda told reporters after an interactive session with members of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Following Trump’s election as US president on a protectionist platform, the US has announced stricter norms for issuing the H1B and L1 visas.

India’s Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu said in October that the issue of H1B and L1 visas, which have facilitated the entry of Indian IT professionals, has been raised strongly with Washington.

Responding to a query regarding reducing pet coke imports from the US, Vajda said the US sees energy as the most potential area for increasing economic activities.

“The US is committed to increase energy export and support for India’s economic development,” he said.

Vajda said both the governments of India and the US have been hopeful and supportive for completion of contract between the Westinghouse Electric Company and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India to build six nuclear reactors in India.

On the Rohingya refugee crisis, he said the US has been providing financial support for humanitarian purposes to the Bangladesh government through international organisations to help out over 600,000 Rohingyas who have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar since August.

“We also continue to urge the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh to have conversations and discussions that will facilitate the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Rohingyas to Myanmar,” he added. (IANS)

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Democrats back Trump for stronger India ties: Indian-American Congressman

Nov 30, 2017 0

By Arul Louis

New York– Although there is an ideological chasm between US President Donald Trump and the Democratic Party, India-US relation “transcends partisanship” and the party supports his initiatives to strengthen it further, according to Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi.

“The more he can do that the better because it will help each of our economies and will enhance our security and also bring our two peoples together even closer between the world’s oldest and largest democracies,” the Democratic Party member of the House of Representatives said in interview with IANS.

Trump has said that a “critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expanded on it saying last month the administration wanted to “deepen ties with India” to make it one of the anchors of a democratic world order.

“It is good that the President is continuing the strengthening of the US-India relationship,” Krishnamoorthi said. “I am glad that the relationship is now something that both parties support.”

But he said that it should not be a transactional relationship but be built on a foundation that endures.

“What I am always concerned about is any kind of relation, any kind of interaction that is transactional in nature,” he said. “We need to make it about relationship growing.”

For this, “it is very, very important that for instance that we enhance our economic relationship, that we continue to promote Indian investment in the US,” he said, “just as the Indians will promote American investment in India”.

Krishnamoorthi made a pitch for investments in his Illinois constituency located in suburbs around Chicago, saying he hopes Indian businesses would come there.

The Indian auto manufacturer, Mahindra Group, has set up a factory and technical centre with a $230 million investment in neighbouring Michighan state across the lake from Illinois.

On the security front, Washington and New Delhi “have to be close partners in fighting terrorism, but also in making sure that we can bring some democratic norms and, kind of making sure everyone observes the rules of the road in our global relationships, the way we conduct our global business”, Krishnamoorthi said.

Krishnamoorthi, who was born in Delhi and came to the US as a baby with his parents, is a mechanical engineer and a lawyer by training. He headed companies that develop technologies for defence and renewable energy sectors before his election last year.

There are three other Indian-Americans, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna and Ami Bera — all Democrats — in the House of Representatives and a Senator of Indian descent.

“I affectionately call them the ‘Samosa Caucus’,” Krishnamoorthi said. “We try to help each other out on our bills of interest.”

“We have taken a stand against hate crimes directed against Indian-Americans whether they are Sikhs, Hindus or Muslims or Jains. We work together on those issues,” he said.

The other Representatives supported a bill he has introduced to set up a commission to study the rise in hate crimes and recommend ways to combat them, Krishnamoorthi said.

While there had been just one Indian-American Congressman, Bera, in the elections last year their numbers shot up to five in a sign of the community’s increased political involvement.

“That trend will continue to proceed apace,” Krishnamoorthi said. “I think that what is really important is that at the grassroots level Indian-Americans really engage in the political process. That means voting and volunteering and assisting candidates who support their agenda that is friendly to their values.”

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US consulate launches scheme for young entrepreneurs

Nov 16, 2017 0

Patna– The United States Consulate General, Kolkata, in collaboration with the social enterprise Contact Base, on Thursday launched a youth entrepreneurship initiative in four cities of east India — Guwahati, Patna, Ranchi and Kolkata.

The programme, Y4BIZ (Youth for Business), in Patna is being held in association with a local organisation, Bihar Vidyapeeth Centre for Incubation and Entrepreneurship.

The Y4BIZ programme aims to support a promising group of 50 young entrepreneurs and transform their business ideas from the initial stage to a sustainable business model, said a press release.

The 50 entrepreneurs will be selected through a rigorous screening process after the launch events in all the four cities.

This will be followed by an online capacity building and mentoring programme run by the IC2 Institute, University of Texas, Austin.

A group of ten mentors will also be selected to be trained at the Nexus Incubator Hub, which is housed in the American Center in New Delhi.

Finally, the top 10 business ideas will be showcased before industry leaders, investors and policy makers, to celebrate entrepreneurship and recognise the youth leaders in 2018, according to the release.

Director of the American Center and Public Affairs Officer of the U.S. Consulate General, Kolkata Jamie Dragon said while launching the event in Guwahati: “The youth entrepreneurship development is a proven strategy that positively impacts the lives of young people. This project seeks to foster a culture of entrepreneurship in eastern India and to strengthen linkages between American and Indian youth leaders.”

The scheme is part of a series of activities in the run-up to the upcoming Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), which is scheduled for November 28-30 in Hyderabad.

Organised annually since 2010, GES is a pre-eminent annual entrepreneurship gathering that convenes over a thousand emerging entrepreneurs, investors and supporters from around the world.

This year’s summit, being hosted jointly by the United States and India, will be held for the first time in South Asia. The theme for GES is “Women First, Prosperity for all,” and will focus on supporting women entrepreneurs and fostering economic growth globally.

Ivanka Trump, Senior Advisor to the President, will head the United States’ delegation to the summit.

Suman Mukhopadhyay, Director & Vice President (Finance & Strategy), Contact Base said: “An entrepreneurs’ journey is a journey of loneliness. For first generation early stage entrepreneurs, this can be a daunting challenge to surmount. If one is attempting to start an enterprise in the eastern region of India, odds are stacked too unfavorably.

“An initiative like Y4BIZ, which intends to create a network of mentors, entrepreneurs, incubators and policy makers, will work closely with the stakeholders towards evolving favourable environments for startups. This can help transform the landscape of entrepreneurship in this region.”(IANS)

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American expert favours Indo-US pact in IT sector

Nov 7, 2017 0

Bengaluru– A bilateral agreement in the IT sector between India and the US would benefit many sectors, including defence and aerospace, said a top official of an American advisory services firm on Tuesday.

“A bilateral US-India IT sector agreement will benefit many sectors such as defence, aerospace, banking, science and technology, infrastructure and flow of people,” said The Stern Group Chairwoman Paula Stern, at the two-day conference on ‘Unlocking US-India Trade Potential’, organised by the US Consulate General with the Atlantic Council.

The Washington-based Stern Group provides advisory services in business and government strategy. Its services include broker connections with governments, resolving commercial disputes and developing political and economic policy campaigns.

Stern, a former chairperson of the US International Trade Commission, also asked India to take the lead in the sectoral focus to strengthen a bilateral US-India trade presence in the Indo-Pacific region, as this would allow India to serve its grander strategic and economic objectives.

“In doing so, India will be handing the US a step up that will help it regain American geostrategic leadership,” she said

With North America accounting for about 60 per cent of the $150-billion Indian software services and IT product exports annually and iun view of the inter-linkages between the two nations in IT, e-commerce and cyber security, Stern said the sectoral agreement would facilitate a grander convergence and reinforce security capacity and inter-operability.

“The proposal has merit geo-strategically, economically, and politically. Addressing tariffs and regulatory issues will benefit trade for both nations,” she said.

US Consul General Robert Burgess, Infosys co-founder and Chairman Nandan Nilekani and Atlantic Council Director Bharath Gopalaswamy attended the conference. (IANS)

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US firm Epicor to sell ERP software in India

Nov 2, 2017 0

Bengaluru– US-based Epicor Software Corporation on Thursday said it would sell Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software in India through Redington India.

“Reddington will distribute our industry-specific ERP solutions to the Indian manufacturing industry, especially the small and medium enterprises,” Epicor Vice President, International, Sabby Gill told reporters here.

As a leading technology products distributor, Redington India will select and training specialist resellers to grow the Epicor customer base and meet demand for ERP solutions across the country.

“Epicor ERP is a great fit for Indian manufacturing firms looking to grow. Adding its ERP to our portfolio will enable us to capitalise on the untapped market potential,” said Redington President Anand Chakravarthy.

The modern architecture of Epicor ERP will enable customers to deal with challenges of preparing for Industry 4.0, as smart technologies are adopted.

“Whilst India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, it is also a digitally advanced market. Redington has expertise to enable manufacturers to digitally transform and grow their businesses,” added Gill.

Epicor’s Regional Vice-President Thiru Vengadam will spearhead the strategy to grow its footprint and help companies thrive through ERP. (IANS)

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Twenty major US firms to invest in UP

Oct 23, 2017 0

Lucknow– Twenty major companies of the US will invest in different sectors in Uttar Pradesh, an official said on Monday.

At a conclave held here, representatives of these top US companies were unanimous in their view that Uttar Pradesh was a growing and potential market, the official said.

Boeing India representative Pratyush Kumar, a senior member of the US Embassy in India, Uttar Pradesh’s Health Minister Sidharth Nath Singh and Niti Ayog member V.K. Paul were present at the US-India Industry conclave.

Paul told the businessmen about various policies and investor-friendly works initiated by the Narendra Modi government and added that the Prime Minister was working on making innovation a culture in the country.

Currently, 600 US companies function from India and the country is taking giant leaps in energy, transport and infrastructure sectors and developing Smart Cities.

Thanking the US delegation, Sidharth Nath Singh said in comparison to other states, Uttar Pradesh was lagging behind and rued how during previous governments while some investment came, things did not move forward.

Promising a full working environment and security, the Minister said a conducive environment for investment and industry begins with good law and order.

He added that in the first six months of the Bharatiya Janata Party regime in the state, a lot of work had been done with regard to maintaining law and order and containing crime.

Sidharth Nath Singh also accused the previous governments of working for caste, communities and with a narrow vision while assuring the US businessmen of all possible cooperation and help in setting up base in the state. (IANS)

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US geopolitical support to India needs more economic content

Oct 23, 2017 0

New Delhi– America’s recent support to India in a move to maintain balance in geopolitics, should have more economic content to ensure a sustained and positive policy architecture in the Asia Pacific region, the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC) said on Monday.

“The recent unequivocal India outreach stand of the United States to maintain balance in the geo-politics should have more economic thrust and content to ensure sustained positive policy architecture in the Asia Pacific, the IACC said in a statement here.

“The bonhomie demonstrated by President Trump by celebrating Diwali in the White House, followed up by the blunt statement of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that India is the strongest and most reliable ally in the Asia Pacific region to purge terrorism and disruptive forces from the region are pointers to a new and emerging partnership between India and the US,” it said.

“It is important to give a strong economic heft and gravitas to these developments to make it sustainable and enduring,” said IACC President Vasant Subramanyan.

Describing the US and India as “two bookends of stability on either side of the globe,” Tillerson last week proposed that both countries work together in the Indo-Pacific region to counter the disruptive force of China.

Speaking in Washington, Tillerson contrasted the manner of China’s emergence with that of India.

“It (China) has done so less responsibly, at times undermining the international, rules-based order – even as countries like India operate within a framework that protects other nations’ sovereignty,” he said.

Subramanyan noted that four areas required the immediate attention of both countries. These are “infrastructure investment, manufacturing, technology and skill development, besides steps for augmenting bilateral trade”.

“Pitching for a more positive involvement of India initiated International North-South Trade Corridor (INSTC), which would connect India, Iran, and Russia and Central Asia, IACC felt that this ambitious project should be backed more specifically and strongly by the US both in terms of geo-political and economic considerations.”

According to IACC, China has taken a calibrated and diplomatic stance in its response to the evolving relationship between India and the US by describing it as a positive development.

“Some of the Chinese owned or controlled corporations are investing in India in various sectors. Some of these companies are operating out from the US and they stand to gain immensely from augmenting economic partnership between India and the US,” the statement said.

“IACC suggests that the US can respond to the initiative of the Indian administration to import crude oil from the US first time after 40 years as a sequel to the clarion call by the Trump Administration to buy the US products globally,” the statement said.

Indian Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan announced earlier this month that two shipments of 1.6 million barrels of crude oil from US had arrived in India, recently. He said the three Indian public sector refineries have already placed a cumulative order of 7.85 million barrels from the US. In addition, a private sector refiner has also placed an order of 2 million barrels from America.

The US has also become the top exporter of defence equipment to India, the statement added. (IANS)

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Businesses betting big on new US Ambassador to India

Oct 11, 2017 0

By Aroonim Bhuyan

New Delhi– With Kenneth Juster being named as the new US Ambassador to India, US businesses are expecting that bilateral commercial ties will grow with him in that position, according to a senior office-bearer of a US-India business body.

“We are very optimistic, we are grateful that he accepted the job. It’s maybe the position that business has with his appointment because he understands business,” Edward Monser, Vice-President of the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), told IANS in an interview here.

“We have worked with him before. He has had relationships with all of us in the executive council of the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum,” Monser, who is also the President and COO of Emerson Electric and is here for an energy forum, said.

“So, we know him well. We trust him. Most importantly, he doesn’t wait for things to become a problem. He is proactive, he reaches out to both sides. He makes sure people understand and he communicates very well.”

Juster succeeds Richard Verma, who left after Donald Trump was sworn in as US President in January this year.

Juster has served as the Deputy Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs under Trump and was also the Under Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Security under former President George W. Bush.

Kenneth Juster

He is expected to take up office towards the end of this month or in the beginning of November.

Stating that most proactive ambassadors know, understand and promote business development as well as good diplomatic dialogue, Monser said that “India and the US will get along better if our commercial relationships are stronger”.

He is of the view that there is now an opportunity to balance trade between India and the US.

“The dialogue around how to balance it and where there are opportunities to balance the trade I think are productive,” he stated. “The new Ambassador will be able to help with that.”

Monser said that the areas of advanced agriculture, defence and and energy “are really good opportunities to close the gap”.

“By closing the trade gap I think you will see benefit more clearly on both sides.”

Combined India-US trade stands at $124 billion but Monser is of the view that “we can realise the potential and go to $500 billion”.

“We see a path there that could be shared and benefit India and benefit the US,” he said.

“I think that’s why our leaders get along so well because they can see it too. They can see the real opportunities. So, we want to stay focused on growing the trade between the two countries, growing the investments between the two countries and encouraging the investment both ways.”

On the role of the newly-formed USISPF, he said that that the “old structure” kept businesses from both sides from going to the new business models that are most important.

“So the best thing to do was to start all over again. Start anew, again with very experienced people, people that have solved problems in the US and India for some time,” Monser said.

He also appreciated new Indian initiatives like Digital India and Skill India.

“I think we will always have a challenge to make sure that we have the number of engineers and scientists we need,” Monser said.

“But that’s not the major issue. The bulk of the population, more than 50 per cent of the jobs are what I would call technical for which you don’t need an engineering degree but you have to have training and knowledge to work in a digital economy.” (IANS)

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