Move to hit Indian information technology companies

In a move that is expected to hit Indian IT companies majorly, the U.S. government has decided to hike H-1B visa fee from next fiscal.

In a statement, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) listed out the details of the fees to be filed by the applicants for H-1B visas, which starts from a base fee of $325 to $2,000 by the petitioner who employs 50 or more employees in the U.S. — where more than 50 per cent of its workers in the U.S. are in H-1B or L-1 non-immigrant status.

This year, the USCIS is charging $750 for employers with 1 to 25 full-time equivalent employees and $1,500 for employers with 26 or more full-time equivalent employees.

There is another $500 listed as fraud prevention and detection fee.

And employers seeking premium processing service, in which application is processed within 15 days, need to submit an additional $1,225, it said.

India's software and services companies earn around 60 per cent of their revenues from the U.S. and employ a large number of professionals here.

The USCIS also said that applications for the most sought after H-1B work visa — used extensively by Indian IT professionals — for the fiscal beginning October 1, would be accepted beginning April 2.

The congressionally mandated numerical limitation on H-1B petitions for the fiscal year 2013 is 65,000, as has been in the previous years.

Additionally, the first 20,000 H-1B petitions filed on behalf of individuals who have earned a U.S. master's degree or higher are exempt from the fiscal year cap.

The USCIS said H-1B applications would be considered accepted on the date it took possession of a properly filed petition with correct fee and not the date on which it was sent.

“If the number of applications received exceeds the numerical cap, the USCIS will randomly select the number of petitions required to reach the numerical limit from the pool of petitions received on the final receipt date,” the USCIS said, adding that it would reject cap-subject petitions that were not selected, as well as those received after the final receipt date.

Petitions for new H-1B employment were exempt from the annual cap if the beneficiaries would work at institutions of higher education or related or affiliated non-profit entities, non-profit research organisations or governmental research organisations, the USCIS said.

Petitions filed on behalf of beneficiaries who will work only in Guam or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands are exempt from the cap until December 31, 2014.

Employers may continue to file petitions for these cap-exempt H-1B categories seeking work dates starting in 2011-12, it said.

The USCIS said that up to 6,800 visas are set aside from the cap of 65,000 during each fiscal year for the H-1B1 programme under the terms of the legislation implementing the U.S.-Chile and U.S.-Singapore free trade agreements.

Unused numbers in this pool are made available for H-1B use for the next fiscal year.

The federal agency cautioned applicants from filing duplicate applications.

To ensure fair and orderly distribution of available H-1B visas, the USCIS would deny or revoke multiple or duplicative petitions filed by an employer for the same H-1B worker and would not refund the filing fees submitted with multiple or duplicative petitions, it said. — PTI

Our Chennai Special Correspondent writes:

Shiva Ramani, CEO of U.S.-based iOPEX Technologies, which has a huge presence in Chennai, in a reaction to the hike in H1-B visa fee, said, “Part of it is because it is an election year, I guess.  The U.S. government will force IT majors to hire locals for vanilla skills and train them and choose lower cost destinations in the U.S.  As regards senior skilled folks, the market should be able to absorb the costs. The decision of the U.S. government will force IT majors to hire locals.''

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