WSJ: IT Firms Howling As Visa Fees Leap

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.

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DHS Annual Report on Enforcement Actions: 86% of apprehended foreign nationals from Mexico

Immigration Enforcement Actions: 2009

Each year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) undertakes immigration enforcement actions involving hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals (for definitions of immigration enforcement action terms, see Box 1). These actions include the arrest, detention, return, and removal from the United States of foreign nationals who violate U.S. immigration law. Violations include failing to abide by the terms and conditions of admission or engaging in a variety of crimes such as violent crimes, document and benefit fraud, terrorist activity, and drug smuggling. Primary responsibility for the enforcement of immigration law within DHS rests with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). CBP is responsible for the inspection of all arriving persons and conveyances at ports of entry and the deterrence or apprehension of illegal immigrants between ports of entry. ICE is responsible for enforcing immigration laws throughout the United States.

This Office of Immigration Statistics Annual Report presents information on the apprehension, detention, return, and removal of foreign nationals during 2009.1 Key findings in this report include the following:

• DHS apprehended 613,000 foreign nationals; 86 per-cent were natives of Mexico.

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USCIS Implements H-1B and L-1 Fee Increase

WASHINGTON— On Aug. 13, 2010, President Obama signed into law Public Law 111-230, which contains provisions to increase certain H-1B and L-1 petition fees. Effective immediately, Public Law 111-230 requires the submission of an additional fee of $2,000 for certain H-1B petitions and $2,250 for certain L-1A and L-1B petitions postmarked on or after Aug. 14, 2010, and will remain in effect through Sept. 30, 2014.

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) nonimmigrant status. Petitioners meeting these criteria must submit the fee with an H-1B or L-1 petition filed:

• Initially to grant an alien nonimmigrant status described in subparagraph (H)(i)(b) or (L) of section 101(a)(15), or
• To obtain authorization for an alien having such status to change employers.

USCIS is in the process of revising the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129), and instructions to comply with Public Law 111-230. To facilitate implementation of Public Law 111-230, USCIS recommends that all H-1B, L-1A and L-1B petitioners, as part of the filing packet, include the new fee or a statement of other evidence outlining why this new fee does not apply. USCIS requests that petitioners include a notation of whether the fee is required in bold capital letters at the top of the cover letter. Where USCIS does not receive such explanation and/or documentation with the initial filing, it may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) to determine whether the petition is covered by the public law. An RFE may be required even if such evidence is submitted, if questions remain.

The additional fee, if applicable, is in addition to the base processing fee, the existing Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee, and any applicable American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 (ACWIA) fee, needed to file a petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129), as well as any premium processing fees, if applicable.

USCIS will work with its stakeholders to effect a smooth transition given this legislation’s new requirements. For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit http://www.uscis.gov.

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