By DON CLARK
New U.S. legislation that sharply boosts visa fees to pay for tighter border security may play well in some parts of the country, but the applause is faint in Silicon Valley.
The measure, signed into law by President Barack Obama on Friday, is expected to raise operating costs for outsourcing firms that use large numbers of foreign-born employees to serve their U.S. customers. But the biggest impact, critics say, is to increase the perception that America is becoming more protectionist and hostile toward foreigners.
The fee increase applies only to companies with at least 50 employees in the U.S. and 50% or more of their work force holding one of two widely used types of visas. The fee for them to apply for an additional H-1B visa— which covers temporary skilled workers—rises under the legislation to $2,320 from $320. The fee for additional L visas, which cover transfers within a company, increases to $2,570 from $320.
Big U.S. companies that augment their work forces with small percentages of foreign workers wouldn’t be affected by the measure, nor would small start-ups led by a handful of entrepreneurs from abroad. But the carefully crafted criteria strikes some observers as discriminatory, since most of the foreign outsourcing firms with large U.S. operations targeted by the measure are based in India.