On December 18, 2015 President Obama signed into law the FY2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, which includes a provision reinstating the Supplemental Fees charged to U.S. employers who are considered “heavy” users of the H-1B and L visa programs.
First, let’s talk facts:
The new fees were effective immediately.
Companies who employ 50 or more employees in the United States and have more than 50 percent of their U.S. workforce in H-1B, L-1A, or L-1B nonimmigrant status are subject to the supplement fees on both initial and extension petitions. The fees for L-1 petitions increased from $2,250 to $4,500 per petition, and the fees for H-1B petitions increased from $2,000 to $4,000 per petition.
The lower Supplemental Fees were previously in effect but expired on September 30, 2015. The new supplemental fees took effect immediately. The Department of State is starting to collect the new fees in connection with affected Blanket L Petitions at consular posts.
The fees generated will purportedly fund a biometric entry and exit tracking system, in addition to funding health screenings and treatments for first responders in the 2001 World Trade Centre attacks. Money generated from the special fees is expected to be more than a billion dollars a year.
Now, let’s talk reality:
The imposition of such high fees, using the applicability criteria stated, is a direct attempt to deter IT companies, and particularly India-based IT companies, from using the U.S. immigration system. The fees are a punishment for such companies who rely heavily on H-1B and L-1 visas.
Using the H-1B and L-1 visa programs to fund a biometrics entry and exit tracking program, together with health screenings and treatments first responders, creates an inappropriate and unfounded perception of a “link” between the H/L visa programs and our nation’s attempt to deter and fund solutions to terrorism. To be clear, I’ve found no reports (official or unofficial) linking any terrorist acts or attempted acts to the H-1B or L-1 visa programs.
The H-1B and L-1 visa programs are utilized significantly by legitimate U.S. employers in nearly every industry to operate and expand operations in the U.S. with highly skilled and educated workers – thereby generating revenue dollars, jobs and a tax base that certainly is not be ignored by the government.