During last year on December 19th, 2015 there has been a hike in the visa fees of USCIS H-1B and L-1 visa, and the US Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, Michele Bond on her visit to India during August this year revealed that despite of this hike, the candidates from India remained to be the highest recipient of non-immigrant visa categories. Bond also mentioned that among the overall visas issued worldwide, India received 70% of the H-1B visas and 30% of the L-1 visas.
Bond commented on Indians receiving H-1B visas that, “Indian citizens receive almost 70% of all the H-1B visas issued worldwide. Overwhelmingly, Indian applicants are the ones who are successful in qualifying for these visas”.
Bond visited India to attend the fifth annual bilateral Consular dialogue which was scheduled on 22nd August with P. Kumaran, from the Ministry of External Affairs, who is her Indian counterpart. The meeting was primarily aimed to discuss immigration and tourism related issues between the two countries. The discussions also included the issues related to the security of US citizens in India, visa assessment, prevention of international parental child abduction cases and various other issues.
The fee hike in December 2015 in the H-1B and L-1 visas from $2000 to $4000 for H-1B visa and from $2,250 to $4,500 for L-1A and L-1B visa, have put the relation between India and the US under strain. The fee hike is affecting the Indian owned companies the most as the fees is applied to the companies that employ more than 50 employees in the US and ½ of which are employed on H-1B or L-1 non-immigrant visas. The complaint was also filed in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) by Delhi in March this year regarding the fees hike in the visas as the Indian officials find it biased.
In order to discuss this issue, both the countries even had secret meetings at the WTO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland during May this year, but nothing much could be resolved through this meeting. As per Nasscom, the India’s IT industry body finds this fee hike unfair and stated that this fee hike, “unfairly target Indian ICT companies”.
Bond also commented on the price hike of visas that, “These specific visas, where the fees changed – the H and L visas – have seen no drop in the number of applications for those visas and no lessening of interest in obtaining those visas. It was a legislative change, so we were implementing that law.” During last year as per Bond from October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015, Indian residents received more than 110,000 H-1B visas.
The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act 2016 is the new bill introduced in the US House of Representatives by the efforts of Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell from NJ and Dana Rohrabacher from California which coincides with the Bond’s visit to India.
The prime aim of this Bill is to prevent the MNCs operating in the US from employing new H-1B workers if the company has 50 or more employees working for them with around 50% of them with H-1B or L-1 Visas. If this bill becomes law, then would create further stress in the relations between the two countries.
The outcome of this bill would be that the top IT companies of India such as Wipro, Infosys, and TCS etc. operating in US have to appoint local Americans or permanent residents instead of employing workers on non-immigrant visas.
But according to the head of India’s Information Services Group, Dinesh Gonel, “many have called for restrictions and many Bills have been proposed in the past, but none have ever been enacted. There is a skill shortage and the US thrives on immigration”, so this bill is not much a matter of concern.
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