US House of Representatives passed Friday an omnibus bill to fund the federal government that makes hiring of highly skilled foreign workers on H-1B and L-1 visas substantially expensive.
It doubles the application fee for H-1B visas for every new hire to $4,000 from $2,000 and $4,500 for every L-1 visa, which is needed for intra-company transfers, from $2,250.
These changes will apply to US companies with more that 50 employees, 50% of whom are foreigners, mostly US operations of Indian companies such as TCS, Infosys and Wipro.
These hikes are meant to fund continued healthcare for first-responders impacted by the 9/11 terrorist attacks and biometric entry and exit monitoring system.
Indian government and IT industry had been following the progress of the legislation with a mix of dread and helplessness as there was little they could do stop it.
The senate is expected to pass the legislation in a few hours sending it up to the White House for the president to sign it into law, which is also expected later in the day.
There are other legislations in the pipeline that seek to cut down the hiring of freeing workers specially on H-1B visas, which, it’s critics believe, are displacing American workers.
One legislation proposes to fix minimum salary for H-1B workers — at the same level as that paid to American workers — to prevent companies from hiring cheaper foreigners.
The same legislation proposes to prevent a company from filling a vacancy created by firing a local, American employee for two years, to address the issue of displacement.
Another legislation seeks to bring down the number of H-1B visas from the current 85,000 to 70,000 a year. Not all or any of these may become law, but the visa fee hikes will.
These changes will be in force for the next 10 years, and are likely to cost the Indian IT industry an estimated $400 million a year, according to their trade body NASSCOM.
The hiked fee of $4,000 and the new levy of $4,500 will be charged for extensions also — H-1B visa is given for three years, which can be extended for the same period, but just once.
L-1 is also valid for three years and can be extended up to the maximum of five and seven years, for different categories under this visa type.