Increased fees for H-1B applications comes into effect

The steep hike in US work visa fees imposed under a new law signed by President Barack Obama, ignoring the Indian and American corporate concerns has come into effect.
The new law, which is aimed at raising $600 million for securing the US-Mexico border, is estimated to cost Indian IT firms that have been sending thousands of professionals on H-1B and L1 visas, an additional $250 million annually.
Now, an additional fee of $2,000 for certain H-1B petitions and $2,250 for certain L-1A and L-1B petitions will be charged and the rates will remain in effect till Sep 30, 2014, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced.
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.
The Indian government has protested to Washington against what it calls a highly discriminatory law that would largely affect Indian IT firms like Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys Technologies, Wipro and Mahindra Satyam.
Indian officials and the US-India Business Council, representing 300 top US firms doing business with India, have warned the new 'discriminatory' law could also hurt burgeoning India-US economic ties.
The USCIS 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.
It has also advised all H-1B, L-1A and L-1B petitioners to include in their applications the new fee or a statement of other evidence outlining why this new fee does not apply.
The USCIS will work with its stakeholders to effect a smooth transition given this legislation's new requirements, it said.

Increase in visa fee aimed to curb misuse of H1B program

Defending the American decision to approve a very steep hike in the fees for certain categories of H-1B and L-1 visas, senior New York Senator Charles Schumer said the move was aimed at companies who hire foreign workers in a manner contrary to the original intent of the visa programme.
"Instead of raising the deficit -- which we do not do in this bill -- or diverting vital stimulus funds, the Senate ultimately agreed to pay for the border package by increasing visa fees on companies who hire foreign workers in a manner contrary to the original intent of the H-1B visa programme," Schumer said in the US Senate on Thursday.
Under the Emergency Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2010 - popularly called the Border Security Bill - the fee for certain categories of H-1B and L1 visas would increase by at least USD 2,000 for the next five years, which would help foot nearly $550 million out of the proposed expenditure of $650 million on increasing security along 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 are visa-holding foreign workers.
Indian and US companies have termed it discriminatory. However, Senator Schumer defended the decision of the Senate.
In 1990, the US Congress realised the world was changing rapidly and that technological innovations, such as the Internet, were creating a high demand in the United States for hi-tech workers to create new technologies and products.
Consequently, Congress created the H-1B visa programme to allow US employers to hire foreign tech workers in special circumstances when they could not find an American citizen who was qualified, he said.
"Many of the companies that use this programme today are using the programme in exactly the way Congress intended; that is, these companies, such as Microsoft, IBM and Intel, are hiring bright foreign students educated in our American universities to work in the United States for 6 or 7 years to invent new product lines and technologies so that Microsoft, IBM and Intel can sell more products to the American public and hire more American workers," he said.
"Then at the expiration of the H-1B visa period, these companies apply for these talented workers to earn green cards and stay with the company.
"When the H-1B visa programme is used in this manner, it is a good programme for everyone involved. It is good for the company, it is good for the worker and it is good for the American people who benefit from the products and jobs created by the innovation of the H-1B visa holder," Schumer said.

Non-immigrant visa applicants may apply anywhere in China

With immediate effect, non-immigrant visa applicants may schedule their visa interview appointments within any US Consular Section in China, regardless of the province, city or region in which they reside in.
Consular Sections are located within the Beijing US Embassy and the US Consulates within Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenyang.
These changes have been implemented as a result of the amount of non-immigrantvisa applications last year. In 2009 alone, there were more than half a million non-immigrant visas granted within China.
As per the high demand of applications within China, the US Government is looking forward to increase the mutual relations between the two nations through peopleexchange and tourism by making the visa application process more convenient for Chinese Nationals.