The steep hike in US work visa fees imposed under a new law signed by President Barack Obama, ignoring the Indian and American corporate concerns has come into effect.
The new law, which is aimed at raising $600 million for securing the US-Mexico border, is estimated to cost Indian IT firms that have been sending thousands of professionals on H-1B and L1 visas, an additional $250 million annually.
Now, an additional fee of $2,000 for certain H-1B petitions and $2,250 for certain L-1A and L-1B petitions will be charged and the rates will remain in effect till Sep 30, 2014, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced.
These additional fees apply to petitioners who employ 50 or more employees in the United States with more than 50 percent of its employees in the United States in H-1B or L (including L-1A, L-1B and L-2) non-immigrant status, it said.
The Indian government has protested to Washington against what it calls a highly discriminatory law that would largely affect Indian IT firms like Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys Technologies, Wipro and Mahindra Satyam.
Indian officials and the US-India Business Council, representing 300 top US firms doing business with India, have warned the new 'discriminatory' law could also hurt burgeoning India-US economic ties.
The USCIS said it is in the process of revising the Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker (Form I-129), and instructions to comply with the new law.
It has also advised all H-1B, L-1A and L-1B petitioners to include in their applications the new fee or a statement of other evidence outlining why this new fee does not apply.
The USCIS will work with its stakeholders to effect a smooth transition given this legislation's new requirements, it said.