US House hikes visa fees amid Indian concerns

Last Updated: Tuesday, August 10, 2010 - 23:40

Washington: The US House of
Representatives today approved a key border security bill that
would steeply hike H-1B and L-1 visa fees to fund new measures
amid concerns by Indian companies, who are one of the main
beneficiaries of the travel permit.

The House passed by voice vote the bill on border
protection that would increase the H-1B and L-1 visa
application fee by more than USD 2,000 in a bid to fund
America`s border protection measures with Mexico, which has
been a source of a large number of illegal migrations.

The bill proposes to raise the fees on H-1B visas (for
temporary skilled workers) for companies who have more than 50
per cent of their employees on H-1B visas. Their fees will
raise from USD 320 to USD 2,320.

It also raises fees on L visas (given to multi-
national transferees) for foreign companies. Their fees will
raise from USD 320 to USD 2,570.

A similar version of the bill was passed by the US
Senate last week with unanimous consent.

Unveiled 90 days ahead of the key November mid-term
elections, it seeks to add another 1,500 agents and put in
place greater number of unmanned aerial vehicles that scan the
frontier for undocumented immigrants or illegal drug runners.

The bill, first unveiled by Democratic Senators Chuck
Schumer and Claire McCaskill, would also pay for building
forward operating bases along the border as well as unmanned
aerial vehicles (UAVs) to patrol the border.

"I prefer our source, which is from these companies
which are not, as I say? they are companies whose whole purpose
is to bring people in on H-1B and the vast majority of them
from other countries who go back to the other countries. That
is a better funding source," said Senator Charles Schumer from
New York, one of the co-author of the bill along with Senator
Claire McCaskill.

Schumer said he "liked the H-1B programme" as "it does
a lot of good for a lot of American companies".

"In fact, in the immigration proposal I made, along
with Senator Reid and Senator Menendez, as well as the outline
with Senator Graham, we expand H-1B in a variety of ways,"
Schumer argued.

A summary of a Senate version of the bill named Indian
firms Wipro, Tata, Infosys and Satyam, which use hundreds of
these visas for their employees coming to the United States to
work at their clients` locations as technicians and engineers,
a media report said.

India`s National Association of Software and Services
Companies (NASSCOM) has expressed concern over the bill,
warning it would stteply hike annual US visa costs for India`s
outsourcing industry by USD 200-250 million annually, the
report said. The proposals USD 600 million price tag would be
funded by hiking fees on what the measure`s backers called a
handful of foreign firms that "exploit" US visa programmes to
improperly import workers to the United States.

"There is a part of H-1B that is abused, and it is by
companies that are not American companies or even companies
that are making something," Schumer said.

"Rather, they are companies that take foreign folks,
bring them here, and then they stay here for a few years,
learn their expertise, and go back. We think we should
increase the fees when they do that," he underlined.

Infosys Technologies CEO S Gopalakrishnan has
expressed concern over the House move, saying he was "saddened
and disheartened".

India has at least 50 percent of the global
outsourcing business.

According to the summary of the House Bill, it
increases, for five years, the cost for two visas ? H-1B and
L-1 -- which permit foreign workers to come and work in the
United States.

These fee increases, which would raise USD 550
million, would apply only to companies with more than 50
employees and for whom the majority of their workforce is
visa-holding foreign workers.

The bill provides a total of USD 600 million to help
address the threat of increased violence along the Southwest
Border by strengthening border security and enforcement
efforts, it said.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, August 10, 2010 - 23:40

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