Washington: Leading US Congressman Jerry Lewis has come out strongly against a key border security bill that would steeply hike H-1B and L-1 visa fees to fund new measures, a move resented by Indian IT companies which would have to shell out upto $250 million annually on visa costs.
“It makes a mockery of our annual appropriations process where these problems should be solved,” said Lewis, the Ranking Republican on the House Committee on Appropriations.
“This bill is only on the floor today to allow the Democrat majority to claim that they care about border security. It won’t go into effect soon, it won’t solve our border problems,” he said.
The Emergency Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act was on Tuesday by a voice vote in the House of Representatives.
The proposed increase in visa application fee by at least $2,000 for next five years would raise nearly $550 million out of $650 million that have been allocated for increasing the security of the US-Mexico border.
These fee increases would apply only to companies with more than 50 employees and for whom the majority of their workforce is visa-holding foreign workers.
A summary of a Senate version of the bill named Indian firms Wipro, Tata, Infosys and Satyam, which use hundreds of these visas for their employees coming to the United States to work at their clients’ locations as technicians and engineers.
India’s National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) has expressed concern over the bill, warning it would steeply hike annual US visa costs for India’s outsourcing industry by $200-250 million.
Infosys Technologies CEO S. Gopalakrishnan has expressed concern over the House move, saying he was “saddened and disheartened”. India has at least 50% of the global outsourcing business.
Unveiled 90 days ahead of the key November mid-term elections, it seeks to add another 1,500 agents and put in place greater number of unmanned aerial vehicles that scan the frontier for undocumented immigrants or illegal drug runners.
It also raises fees on L visas (given to multi- national transferees) for foreign companies. Their fees will raise from $320 to $2,570.
“Even the bill’s $600 million worth of new spending is paid for with questionable tactics. Avoiding cuts to wasteful government spending, the Democrat majority is penalising businesses with increased fees. How are de facto taxes increases going to create jobs and help our economy?” he asked.