USA doubles visa fees for migrant IT workers

Indian PM Modi expresses industry ire in chat with president Obama

The United States is set to pass a bill named the “9/11 Health and Compensation Act” and Indian IT companies are mad as hell about it.

The bill delivers funding to compensate those whose lives were impacted by the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre in New York. To keep those dollars flowing, the Bill has changed the amount businesses must pay to secure an H1-B or L1 visa to bring workers into the USA.

Indian IT companies use those visas a lot, to bring people from India to work in the USA. Use of such visas has become an issue in the US presidential election, as some candidates seek to curb use of the permit in order to promote employment of local workers. Critics of H1-B visas also argue that they are used to keep wages low, as by bringing in foreign workers it becomes possible to give them a modest pay bump to cope with the cost of living in the US without paying them the same wage as permanent residents or citizens.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the H1-B, Congress will on Friday double the cost of using one to US$4,000, with the increase funnelled into funds for the victims of 9/11.

India's large IT concerns, which are among the heaviest users of H1-Bs, are livid because the fee increase will push up their costs. So livid that when Barack Obama called Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to thank him for help negotiating the Paris climate change agreement, Modi pointedly “shared with President the concerns of the Indian IT industry and professionals on the proposed legislation in the U.S. Congress relating to H1B and L1 visas.”

Modi's concerns are likely to fall on deaf ears, because its political poison to oppose funds for 9/11 victims and more than a little politically convenient to increase the cost of H1-B visas. ®

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