The omnibus appropriations bill that was signed into law on Friday altered multiple immigration programs. The spending measure provides discretionary funding for the government until Sept. 30, 2016.
Here’s some background on some of the major immigration programs that were changed:
In September, Congress failed to renew Public Law 111-230, which imparted an additional fee for companies with more than 50 employees that have sponsored 50 percent or more of their workforce with H-1B or L-1 visas. The omnibus bill reasserted and increased those fees, from $2,250 to $4,500 for L-1 visa petitioners and $2,000 to $4,000 for H-1B petitioners.
Envoy-affiliated attorney Earl Reyes believes the fee hike won’t impact the number of filings companies submit. However, he believes the added cost of recruiting talent will affect companies in other ways. “Unfortunately, funds that may have been targeted toward a company’s research, development and innovation are now going to be diverted to the government,” says Reyes.
The 50/50 fees, which are authorized for 10 years, will be required to be paid on both new and visa extension petitions. The government will use the additional fees to fund the 9-11 and Biometric Entry-Exit programs.
The bill extended the Conrad 30, Special Immigrant Religious Workers, E-Verify and EB-5 Investor Green Card programs through fiscal year 2016. However, there’s an additional EB-5 provision that allocates 6,000 of the 10,000 visas for special designations, including urban priority projects, rural projects and initiatives with $1 million in investments. This dramatically reduces the general pool of investment visas to 4,000.
H-2B program changes
Legislators also clarified the H-2B Temporary Nonagricultural Workers visa program.
“I am pleased to see that they have defined the term ‘seasonal’ as 10 months,” says Reyes. “Seasonal small and family businesses who have to rely on the H-2B visa will have one less thing to worry about when making their staffing plans.”
Additionally, returning H-2B workers are now exempt from the 66,000 cap for fiscal year 2016.
“Resorts and lodging facilities depend on H-2B workers to supplement their U.S. staff during peak seasons,” says Reyes. “The cap exemption will allow these facilities to operate smoothly and ensure better guest experiences.”
Visa Waiver reforms
Earlier this month, the House passed a bill reforming the Visa Waiver Program’s security restrictions by excluding nationals, and recent visitors, of Syria, Iraq, Sudan and Iran from participating in the program. These reforms were included in the omnibus bill.
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