The US has imposed an additional fee of up to USD 4,500 for certain categories of the popular H-1B and L-1 visas, in a blow to Indian IT firms which have to incur an additional burden of about USD 400 million annually.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) said applicants for certain categories of H-1B visas post December 18, 2015 must submit an additional fee of USD 4,000. The H1B visa is designed to allow US employers to recruit and employ foreign professionals in speciality occupations within the US.
In addition, for those applying for certain L-1A and L-1B must submit an additional USD 4,500. L-1 visas are available to employees of an international company with offices in both the United States and abroad.
Referring to the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 signed into law by US President Barack Obama on December 18, 2015, USCIS said the additional fees apply to petitioners who employ 50 or more employees in the US, with more than 50 per cent of those employees in H-1B or L (including L-1A and L-1B) non-immigrant status.
This fee is in addition to the base processing fee, Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee, American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 fee (when required), as well as the premium processing fee, if applicable.
This will remain effective through September 30, 2025, USCIS said.
In a statement, USCIS warned that it will begin rejecting H-1B and L-1 visa petitions received on or after February 11, 2016 that do not carry the information required under the new law. USCIS also revised the necessary forms in this regard.
During the 30-day period immediately following this web alert, USCIS may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) to determine whether the additional fee applies to the petition.
In a study released in September last year, NASSCOM, a trade association of Indian IT industry, said Indian IT companies have paid between USD 70 to USD 80 million annually for the US Treasury approximately. Given that, the new punitive measure is expected to raise between USD 1.4 billion and USD 1.6 billion every year for the next one decade.
It had said that as a result of the US action the Indian technology sector will have to bear additional burden of about USD 400 million annually and this could adversely impact competitiveness of India’s tech sector.
In December, Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the issue with Obama when the latter telephoned him to thank for his leadership role on achieving the historic agreement on climate change in Paris on December 12.