On August 13, 2010, President Obama signed HR 6080, the Emergency Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act ("Act"), into law. The Act provides $600 million in additional funding for border security that will allow the purchase of unmanned aerial vehicles to boost border surveillance, as well as the deployment of 1,500 new federal agents along the southern border. A significant source of this funding will be the increased filing fees that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") must now charge for certain H-1B and L-1 visa petitions.
Under the Act, certain frequent users of the H-1B and L-1 programs must pay higher filing and fraud prevention fees. Effective immediately, the filing fee for each new H-1B petition has been raised from $320 to $2,000 for employers that have more than 50 employees in the United States, if over 50 percent of their employees are working in either H-1B or L-1 status. The filing and fraud prevention fee for those employers filing L-1 petitions has been increased to $2,250. Under the Act, these fee increases will remain in effect through Sept. 30, 2014.
Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York), who introduced the legislation in the Senate, stated that the Act is "enormously important because it will clear the path for restarting bipartisan discussions we absolutely need to have on how best to restore the rule of law to our entire immigration system." Senator Schumer added, "The purpose of this fee is not to target businesses from any particular country," but rather to raise fees for businesses that "use the H-1B visa to do things that are contrary to the program's original intent ... ."
The Act, however, has not been universally accepted. In fact, the Act has created a firestorm among employers in the Silicon Valley. Noting that the flow of technology talent is now out of the United States, the National Association of Software and Service Companies, an association that represents Indian tech firms, argues that the Act will accentuate this outflow, at a time when the country desperately needs this technical talent, by adding to the perception that the United States is hostile to these foreign workers. Adding to these concerns is the perception that this type of law only accelerates the outsourcing trend by organizations that do not want to pay more for foreign workers to come here. Since these workers often are catalysts for the creation of domestic employment, legislation like the Act, which is designed, in part, to protect American jobs, will actually harm the U.S. economy in the long run by providing more economic incentives to outsource those jobs to countries that are more hospitable to foreign labor.