Steep hike in H-1B visa fees come into effect: US

Steep hike in H-1B visa fees come into effect: US

Steep hike in H-1B visa fees come into effect: US

The US move comes in the midst of protests by India that the increase incorporated in the Border Security Bill is discriminatory against Indian companies and needed to be amended.

The hike came into effect from last Saturday after President Barack Obama signed into law the Border Security Bill that allows certain measures to tighten security along the US-Mexico Border.

Now, an additional fee of USD 2,000 for certain H-1B petitions and USD 2,250 for certain L-1A and L-1B petitions will be charged and the rates will remain in effect till September 30, 2014, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said.

These additional fees apply to petitioners who employ 50 or more employees in the United States with more than 50 percent of its employees in the United States in H-1B or L (including L-1A, L-1B and L-2) non-immigrant status, it said.

Ignoring India's concern over some provisions in the Bill, the US Senate had last week passed the legislation after which Obama gave his assent.

The bill approves USD 600 million plan to tighten security along the US-Mexico border by adding another 1,500 agents, deploy more unmanned vehicles to stop the flow of illegal immigrants and drug mafia.

The law will hit top Indian firms like Wipro, Tata, Infosys and Satyam, which use hundreds of these visas for their employees coming to the US to work at their clients' locations as technicians and engineers.

USCIS today said it is in the process of revising the Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker (Form I-129), and instructions to comply with the new law.

In the statement, USCIS said it recommends that all H-1B, L-1A and L-1B petitioners, as part of the filing packet, include the new fee or a statement of other evidence outlining why this new fee does not apply.

Indian Ambassador to the US Meera Shankar had last week said the provisions of the Border Security Bill is discriminatory against Indian companies and asked the US to amend it.

Shankar lodged an official protest to the US Trade Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk on August 9, about five days before Obama signed the bill.

"We feel that the 'pay for' provisions of the Bill are not in keeping with the substantive cooperative agenda which the two governments are pursuing. We would ask that those provisions of the Bill that discriminate against companies of Indian origin may be suitably amended to create a level playing field for all companies," she said.

The 'pay for' provisions of the Bill, Shankar said, stipulate that the amount for the security of US-Mexico border would be provided through higher fees on H1B and L visas from those applicants who employ 50 and more people and 50 per cent of whom are non-immigrants in H-1B or L visa categories.

"Even though the Bill doesn't mention Indian companies specifically, the manner in which it is currently worded appears to be aimed at Information Technology companies from India, creating an unequal playing field," Shankar said.

"The impact on Indian companies of the higher fee increases would be substantial. While we appreciate and understand the US desire to strengthen Border Security, we have concerns about the proposed funding mechanism," she said.

However, the Obama Administration decided to ignore the concerns of India on this issue.

There was no immediate response from the office of US Trade Representatives.
In the statement, the USCIS said it requests that petitioners include a notation of whether the fee is required in bold capital letters at the top of the cover letter.

"Where USCIS does not receive such explanation and/or documentation with the initial filing, it may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) to determine whether the petition is covered by the public law. An RFE may be required even if such evidence is submitted, if questions remain," it said.

The additional fee, if applicable, is in addition to the base processing fee, the existing Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee, and any applicable American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 (ACWIA) fee, needed to file a petition for a Non-immigrant Worker (Form I-129), as well as any premium processing fees, if applicable, the USCIS said.

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