Washington : In a move that will hit Indian IT companies, the US Congress has overruled India’s objection and doubled a special fee on the popular H-1B and L-1 visas, hiking it to $ 4,500. The money generated from the special fee will go towards funding a 9/11 healthcare act and biometric tracking system. The US House of Representative is slated to vote on the USD 1.1 trillion spending bill on Friday. The new $ 4,000 fee would apply to companies having at least 50 employees with 50 per cent of their employees on H-1B or L-1 visa. Such companies would have to pay a new fee of $ 4,000 for H-1B visas and $ 4,500 for L-1 visas. While the specific provisions of the spending bill have no mention of Indian IT companies, the language of the bill has been written in such a way that it would have a big impact on Indian IT companies.

Though the lawmakers behind the bill described it as a temporary provision, the new H-1B and L-1 visa fee increase is for a period of 10 years, as against a previous provision of five years. The previous such provision from 2010 to 2015 of USD 2,000 for H-1B visas lapsed on September 30. In a study released in September this year, NASSCOM, a trade association of Indian IT industry, had said Indian IT companies have paid between USD 70 to USD 80 million annually to the US Treasury. Given that, the new punitive measure is expected to raise between USD 1.4 billion and USD 1.6 billion every year for the next one decade. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the issue with US President Barack Obama when the latter telephoned him to thank for his leadership role on achieving the historic agreement on climate change in Paris on December 12.

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