Washington: The US Senate on Friday approved a
substantial increase in application fees for H-1B and L1 visas
, most sought after by Indian IT professionals to fund a USD
600 million emergency package to improve security along the
porous Mexican border.
The proposed massive increase in H-1B and L1 visa
application fee would primarily affect the top Indian IT
companies who rely majorly on these categories of visas to
continue with their work in the US.
The Senate measure increases the visa fee to USD 2,000
per application on those companies that have less than 50 per
cent of their employees as American citizens.
"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," Senator Charles Schumer from New
York said in his remarks on the Senate floor.
Schumer along with his other democratic colleagues
including Senator Claire McCaskill has introduced the
legislation in this regard, which was passed by unanimous
consent. During the debate, however, Senator John McCain
wanted to fund the security along the Mexican border with the
stimulus money, which was turned down by Schumer.
"The bottom line is this. I like the H-1B programme,
and I think 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,"
"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. 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," the Senator
Rejecting McCain`s proposal to get the funding from
the stimulus money, Schumer said: "I hope, even though I
cannot accept these amendments, that maybe we could come
together on something that we could bring back in September
because I do believe we have to secure the border."
Schumer said: "Even in the comprehensive proposal
that we made, we said we have to secure the border and do
other things as well.
It is my belief that securing the border alone will
not solve our immigration problems; that until we have
comprehensive reform, particularly in making sure employers do
not hire illegal immigrants which they now do, even though
they do not know they are illegal immigrants because documents
are so easily forged, that we have to do comprehensive.
But we should do the border. To say we have to do
comprehensive does not gainsay that we have to work on the
border and work on it quickly and soon."
It is not clear yet, if this increase would also
apply only to those firms that are also H-1B-dependent.
Impact on India
"The Border Security Bill, passed by the US senate late Thursday, aims to raise about $600 million by increasing fee for H-1B and L-1 visas. This has significant impact on the Indian IT sector," Nasscom said in a statement here.
Several Indian software firms avail H-1B and L-1 visas in thousands every year to fly their employees to the US for working at their clients` locations as on-site engineers.
Echoing Nasscom`s concern, IT bellwether Infosys Technologies Ltd termed the US Border Security Bill unfortunate and discriminatory at a time when companies have to be more competitive in an open market scenario.
"It is unfortunate that this tax (fee) is being levied on a discriminatory basis when the need is to open markets to make companies more competitive in the global market place," Infosys said in a statement.
As a global software major, Infosys has been recruiting in the US at all levels, including for its global internship programme InStep.
"We have to study the details to ascertain the actual impact of the hike in fee for H-1B and L-1 visas currently," Infosys board member T. V Mohandas Pai told IANS.