US visa fee hike discriminatory for Indian IT firms

The steep hike in H-1B and L-1 visa fee by the US government on the software engineers Indian IT firms fly out for onshore projects was discriminatory and would hamper US economic growth, trade body the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) said on Tuesday.

“Such legislation, amending the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010, will hamper growth of the US economy and will be discriminatory to Indian IT firms,”  FICCI said.

US President Barack Obama on December 19, 2015 signed into law a $1.8-trillion spending package, which includes a hefty $4,000 fee for certain categories of H-1B visa and $4,500 for L-1 visa.

Companies having over 50 employees and more than 50 per cent of their US employees on H-1B and L1 visas will have to pay the new fee when the next visa application session kicks off on April 1, 2016.

“Indian IT industry is of the view that the additional fee is unjustified, similar to the earlier border security and the Health and Compensation Act, which have nothing to do with the technology industry,” the statement said.

Noting that such protectionist laws not only impacted the business of the Indian IT sector but also limited access to skilled IT personnel for US firms, Ficci said adding that the increasing costs of hiring skilled personnel and services would influence US technology firms to consider moving IT operations overseas, thereby reducing US jobs and tax revenues.

This year’s Congressional approved quota of 65,000 H-1B visas was filled up in the first few days of the start of the application process on April 1.

“In our view, linking unemployment and H1-B visa issue with 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is unfair and should be dealt independently with a broader outlook considering the overall impact on both economies,” the statement reiterated.

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