Washington : Indian IT companies in the US may end up paying a special USD 2,000 fee again on the popular H-1B and L-1 visas to fund a 9/11 healthcare act, with a group of Congressmen quietly mounting fresh efforts to reimpose it.  Such a move has been made part of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act which funds health screenings and treatments for 9/11 first responders.

The bill, named after Detective James Zadroga who died of a respiratory illness in 2006, expired on October 1. Lawmakers are seeking to permanently extend the bill and want to generate necessary funds by imposing a USD 2,000 additional fee on H-1B visas. The bill has been written in such a way that it would impact only Indian companies. According to the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), Indian companies had paid between USD 70 to 80 million per annum between 2010 and 2015.

The “extra fee applies to companies with at least 50 per cent of their employees on H-1B visa or L-1 visas, and is in addition to the other fees paid by employers,” Computerworld reported.  Because of its 50 per cent threshold, it mostly hits the large Indian IT services firms, the leading users of the H-1B visa, the report said.

Last week, two American Senators introduced a legislation in the Senate proposing to cut the number of popular H-1B visas by 15,000 and that such a visa be given to highest wage earner first. Currently every year a maximum of 85,000 H-1B visas can be issued including 20,000 for those who completed higher education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialised fields.

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