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[Updated Oct. 1: Congress has not imposed these fees.]
If Congress doesn’t act by Sept. 30, 2015, companies with U.S. workforces comprised of a majority of H-1B and L-1 temporary visa holders will no longer have to pay additional fees for visa applications.
Known as the 50/50 fee, it applies to companies with more than 50 employees in the United States and more than 50 percent of workers on the guestworker visas.
Since 2010, there has been a $2,000 fee imposed on H-1B visa applications and a $2,250 fee on L-1 visa applications, in addition to the regular processing fees. The 50/50 fee revenue was originally earmarked to help fund a $600 million border security initiative before being reallocated in 2014 to help pay the medical needs of 9/11 first responders.
“As of September 23, an extension of the fee had not been included in the continuing resolution, the legislative vehicle to keep the government funded beyond September 30 [if the U.S. Congress fails to pass a budget by the end of the month],” said Rebecca Peters, director and counsel for legislative affairs at the Council for Global Immigration.
The fees have the largest impact on IT service providers from India, which send thousands of H-1B workers to the U.S. every year.
Angelo Paparelli, a partner in the business immigration practice group at Seyfarth Shaw, believes the fee should expire at the end of September and said it was originally intended to expire since it was brought on due to an “emergency requirement” at that time.
“The apparent emergency at that time involved the need to increase staffing and resources to protect the Southern border,” Paparelli said. “Congress has never explained, however, the supposed relationship between border protection against unlawful entries from Mexico and law-abiding employers relying on the employment-based H-1B and L-1 visa categories. Unless Congress clearly establishes the connection between the two unrelated subjects, employers using provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act lawfully should not be required to finance public protections that benefit everyone in the United States.”
Russ Harrison, director of government relations for the engineering association IEEE-USA, provided a different opinion: “The fee itself is an embarrassment. For the privilege of replacing American workers with non-American workers, the outsourcing contractor has to pay $2,000 once. It’s obviously not enough—not as a fee, and not as a policy.”
Harrison suggested that the fee be added to the continuing resolution to fund the federal budget currently being debated in Congress.
“If the fee lapses, it is very likely Congress would attempt to extend it at some point in the near future,” Peters said. “What is critical to remember is the H-1B and L-1B visa programs help America compete in a global economy.”
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Follow him @SHRMRoy
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