The increase in H-1B and L1 visa fee by US Congress to fund enhanced border security measures, which was basically intended to have financial implications on Indian companies, is impacting American firms too, a key Democratic Congressman has said, highlighting the need to fix this.
"Mr Speaker, I rise to bring to your attention an unintended consequence brought on when we enacted last year's emergency supplemental appropriations bill to fund additional border resources—HR6080, the Emergency Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act," Congressman Steven R Rothman said on the floor of the House of Representatives.
This bill, the New Jersey Congressman said, was fully paid for by imposing additional fees for new H-1B and L-1 visas on a select group of companies.
Specifically, the companies impacted are those with more than 50 employees; and with a US workforce in which more than 50% are on a professional temporary visa -- basically the H-1B and L-1 visas.
"While, I applaud the intent of this provision to incentivise job creation at home, I would like to express my concern about the implementation of the additional visa fees. These fees were meant to be targeted at companies who utilise H-1B and L-1 visas at very high levels for the purpose of building their employees' proficiencies in IT, so that they can take this knowledge and the work back to their home countries," he noted.
"It turns out, however, that some US companies are being impacted by these fee increases because many of their professionals are stuck in green card backlogs and in the meantime remain in temporary visa status," Rothman said.
The Congressman noted that in his remarks at the time of Senate passage of HR 6080, Senator Charles Schumer commented that, when the H-1B visa programme is used as a stepping-stone for skilled immigrants to obtain permanent resident status, 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."
"I agree with Senator Schumer's remarks, and encourage my colleagues to work with me on a technical fix that would ensure that the implementation of this bill is consistent with these policy goals," he said.
"The clearest way to achieve these goals would be to exempt from the so-called '50/50' calculation any H-1B or L-1 worker who has sought to acquire permanent residence by taking steps to file or is the beneficiary of a pending or approved application for alien employment certification with the Department of Labour, or a pending or approved immigrant petition with US Citizenship and Immigration Services," Rothman said.
Those H-1B and L-1 workers are best defined as 'intending immigrants,' as they relinquish their non-immigrant intent when their employers pursue a Green Card application on their behalf, he said.
"We should not punish companies that are doing the right thing by investing considerable resources to sponsor professionals for permanent resident visas," Rothman said.
"They are building a highly skilled workforce in the US within technical specialties in which few American workers with applicable skills exist. This is something we need to do if we are going to grow out of our current economic difficulties," he said.
Rothman had earlier urged secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, to consider making the technical fix as part of regulatory guidance on this new fee.
"The Department later informed me that such a fix required Congressional action," he said.
"I raise this issue Mr Speaker, because it is my hope that we can work with our colleagues in the Senate to ensure that companies that are trying to do the right thing are not unintentionally hurt by this provision. Since this unintended consequence was caused by a provision in an appropriations bill, I hope that we can make the necessary technical fix on an appropriations bill at the appropriate time," Rothman said.