Defending the American decision to approve a very steep hike in the fees for certain categories of H-1B and L-1 visas, senior New York Senator Charles Schumer said the move was aimed at companies who hire foreign workers in a manner contrary to the original intent of the visa programme.
"Instead of raising the deficit -- which we do not do in this bill -- or diverting vital stimulus funds, the Senate ultimately agreed to pay for the border package by increasing visa fees on companies who hire foreign workers in a manner contrary to the original intent of the H-1B visa programme," Schumer said in the US Senate on Thursday.
Under the Emergency Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2010 - popularly called the Border Security Bill - the fee for certain categories of H-1B and L1 visas would increase by at least USD 2,000 for the next five years, which would help foot nearly $550 million out of the proposed expenditure of $650 million on increasing security along 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 are visa-holding foreign workers.
Indian and US companies have termed it discriminatory. However, Senator Schumer defended the decision of the Senate.
In 1990, the US Congress realised the world was changing rapidly and that technological innovations, such as the Internet, were creating a high demand in the United States for hi-tech workers to create new technologies and products.
Consequently, Congress created the H-1B visa programme to allow US employers to hire foreign tech workers in special circumstances when they could not find an American citizen who was qualified, he said.
"Many of the companies that use this programme today are using the programme in exactly the way Congress intended; that is, these companies, such as Microsoft, IBM and Intel, are hiring bright foreign students educated in our American universities to work in the United States for 6 or 7 years to invent new product lines and technologies so that Microsoft, IBM and Intel can sell more products to the American public and hire more American workers," he said.
"Then at the expiration of the H-1B visa period, these companies apply for these talented workers to earn green cards and stay with the company.
"When the H-1B visa programme is used in this manner, it is a good programme for everyone involved. It is good for the company, it is good for the worker and it is good for the American people who benefit from the products and jobs created by the innovation of the H-1B visa holder," Schumer said.