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‘Extend US visa fee hike’

Two US Senators have sought modifications in a 9/11 compensation-related bill, seeking to extend the increase in hike on H-1B and L1 visa fees for another six years and impose excise on some foreign companies to fund free treatment of 200,000 Americans living with health problems contracted while working at the Ground Zero.

world Updated: Dec 22, 2010 23:12 IST

Two US Senators have sought modifications in a 9/11 compensation-related bill, seeking to extend the increase in hike on H-1B and L1 visa fees for another six years and impose excise on some foreign companies to fund free treatment of 200,000 Americans living with health problems contracted while working at the Ground Zero.

The New York senators — Kirstin Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer — have moved for changes in the senate to the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act to extend the increase up to 2021 the fee hike on H-1B and L1 visa, that are much sought after by skilled Indian professionals. The proposed changes also seek to impose a two per cent excise fee on certain foreign companies.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is set to be placed before the Senate after the voting on the New START, which is now expected to be ratified by the Senate.

The 9/11 first responders bill failed on a party-line vote earlier this month on account of a Republican filibuster.

But the two New York Senators have brought it again before the Senate with changes that would have no financial implications on the treasury and would generate the necessary fund on the pattern of that of the Mexico Border Protection Bill early this year that raised fee of the certain categories of H-1B and L1 visas.

As part of the Emergency Border Security Appropriations Act of 2010, which passed the Senate unanimously in August, fees were raised on H-1B and L-1 visas for companies which have more than 50 per cent of their employees on these visas.

The hike affected outsourcing companies like Wipro, Tata, Infosys, Satyam but had no impact American companies, said a joint statement issued by Schumer and Gillibrand.

“This fee was set to expire on September 30, 2014. This bill will extend this fee until September 30, 2021 to continue leveling the playing field between companies that follow the Congressional intent behind these visa programmes and companies that use these visas to outsource American jobs,” the press statement said.

As a result of the settlement reached last month with many of the ailing Ground Zero workers, the overall cost of the bill is now reduced from $7.4 billion to $6.2 billion.

The two Senators said every year, the United States spends between $35 billion to $40 billion on procurement of goods and services from foreign manufacturers and companies located abroad in countries that are not members of the Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA) instead of from American companies.