House to vote on appropriations bill affecting several immigration programs

16 Dec 15

UNITED STATES

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote Friday on an end-of-year spending bill that contains multiple immigration provisions, including doubling certain visa petition fees for employers of H-1B and L-1 nonimmigrants.

H-1B and L-1 Visa Fees

The bill would reinstate and increase the visa petition fees previously authorized under Public Law 111-230 to $4,000 for H-1B petitions and $4,500 for L-1 petitions and would require payment of these fees for extension petitions as well as initial filings. The fees apply only to employers with 50 or more U.S. employees, of whom more than 50 percent are in H-1B or L-1 status. These changes would remain in effect until Sept. 30, 2025.

Previously, these employers were required to pay $2,000 for initial H-1B petitions and $2,250 for initial L-1 petitions. The fees expired Sept. 30 when Congress did not reauthorize them in the stopgap spending bill.

Reauthorization of Immigration Programs

The bill would reauthorize the following immigration programs that were scheduled to expire, without any reforms:

  • The EB-5 Immigrant Investor program.
  • E-Verify.
  • The Special Immigrant Religious Worker program.
  • The Conrad 30 Waiver program for foreign doctors.

These programs were temporarily extended in the short-term funding bill that was passed in September. The bill would reauthorize them until Sept. 30, 2016.

Visa Waiver Program Restrictions

The funding bill also includes the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015,” H.R. 158, which the House passed last week. These provisions aim to increase security in the Visa Waiver Program in light of recent terrorist attacks, through measures such as:

  • Barring certain individuals from participating in the program.
  • Imposing stricter eligibility criteria and information-sharing obligations on participating countries.
  • Requiring the Department of Homeland Security to enhance the Electronic System for Travel Authorization.

Federal government funding was previously set to expire Dec. 11, but Congress averted a government shutdown by voting to temporarily extend it until today. Congress is expected to pass another short-term spending bill that will fund the government through next Tuesday, to give the Senate sufficient time to pass the legislation.

BAL Analysis: Though the bill, if passed, would simply reinstate multiple immigration programs without any changes, the increase in the visa petition fees would impose significant costs on employers of H-1B and L-1 workers. BAL is continuing to monitor the progress of the legislation. Please contact your BAL attorney if you have any questions regarding this legislation and how it would affect your business.

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