US Congressman comes out against visa fee hike bill

"It makes a mockery of our annual appropriations process where these problems should be solved," said Lewis, the Ranking Republican on the House Committee on Appropriations.

"This bill is only on the floor today to allow the Democrat majority to claim that they care about border security. It won't go into effect soon, it won't solve our border problems," he said.

The Emergency Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act was passed yesterday by a voice vote in the House of Representatives.

The proposed increase in visa application fee by at least USD 2,000 for next five years would raise nearly USD 550 million out of USD 650 million that have been allocated for increasing the security of the US-Mexico border.

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

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.

India's National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) has expressed concern over the bill, warning it would steeply hike annual US visa costs for India's outsourcing industry by USD 200-250 million.

Infosys Technologies CEO S Gopalakrishnan has expressed concern over the House move, saying he was "saddened and disheartened". India has at least 50 per cent of the global outsourcing business.

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.

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.

"Even the bill's USD 600 million worth of new spending is paid for with questionable tactics. Avoiding cuts to wasteful government spending, the Democrat majority is penalising businesses with increased fees. How are de facto taxes increases going to create jobs and help our economy?" he asked."

The bill would also give millions of dollars in communication equipment to the border with Mexico to combat the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs.

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.

"This measure is fully paid for, and it improves communications and collaboration between federal, state, and local officials," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

"The bill is fully offset. It increases, for five years, the cost of two visas which permit foreign workers to come and work in the United States," said Congressman David Price, one of the main author of the Bill.

The Bill also includes a USD 100 million rescission from unobligated balances within the Department of Homeland Security's border security fencing, infrastructure and technology appropriation due to an ongoing assessment of the SBInet programme," he said.

While the Senate has already passed a similar version of the Bill, but because of the differences between the two bills, the Senate must pass the compromise legislation before it can be signed into law by President Barack Obama.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said the President has put more assets on the border than have ever been there before.

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