Omnibus Bill Includes Hefty Fee Increase for L-1 and H-1B Visas, H-1B Regional Center Extension, Other Immigration-Related Provisions
This article was prepared with the assistance of ABIL, the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers, of which Laura Danielson is an active member.
The combined omnibus spending bill that Congress passed on December 18, 2015, includes several immigration measures. Among other things, the supplemental fees for L-1 and H-1B petitions are increasing for companies that employ 50 or more employees in the United States and have more than 50 percent of their U.S. workforce in H-1B, L-1A, or L-1B nonimmigrant status. Specifically, the previously expired fees for L-1 petitions will increase from $2,250 to $4,500, and the fees for H-1B petitions will increase from $2,000 to $4,000. These supplemental fees must be paid on initial and extension petitions.
The bill also extends without substantive changes through September 30, 2016, four immigration programs: the EB-5 regional center program, the E-Verify program, the religious worker visa program, and the Conrad State 30 waiver program for certain foreign doctors on J-1 visas.
Also passed was a prohibition against foreign nationals in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) if they have visited Syria or Iraq at any time on or after March 1, 2011. The new law also excludes from the VWP individuals who are nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran, or Sudan. The omnibus spending law exempts those performing military service in the armed forces of a VWP country or those carrying out official duties in a full-time capacity in the employment of a VWP country government. In addition, the U.S. government may waive exclusion from the VWP program if it would be in the law enforcement or national security interests of the United States.
The new law also allows certain workers previously counted against the H-2B cap to return to the United States without being counted against the cap a second time.
The text of the new law is at http://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20151214/CPRT-114-HPRT-RU00-SAHR2029-AMNT1final.pdf.