Washington: The steep hike in H-1B and L1 visa fees, which would cost Indian IT firms an additional $250 million annually, has come into effect from August 14, reports PTI quoting US officials.
The US move comes in the midst of protests by India that the increase incorporated in the Border Security Bill is discriminatory against Indian companies and needed to be amended.
The hike came into effect from Saturday last after president Barack Obama signed into law the Border Security Bill that allows certain measures to tighten security along the US-Mexico border.
Now, an additional fee of $2,000 for certain H-1B petitions and $2,250 for certain L-1A and L-1B petitions will be charged and the rates will remain in effect till September 30, 2014, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said.
These additional fees apply to petitioners who employ 50 or more employees in the United States with more than 50% of its employees in the United States in H-1B or L (including L-1A, L-1B and L-2) non-immigrant status, it said.
Ignoring India's concern over some provisions in the Bill, the US Senate had last week passed the legislation after which Mr Obama gave his assent.
The bill approves $600 million plan to tighten security along the US-Mexico border by adding another 1,500 agents, deploy more unmanned vehicles to stop the flow of illegal immigrants and drug mafia.
The law will hit top Indian firms like Wipro, Tata, Infosys and Satyam, which use hundreds of these visas for their employees coming to the US to work at their clients' locations as technicians and engineers.
USCIS today said it is in the process of revising the Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker (Form I-129), and instructions to comply with the new law.
In the statement, USCIS said it recommends that all H-1B, L-1A and L-1B petitioners, as part of the filing packet, include the new fee or a statement of other evidence outlining why this new fee does not apply.
Indian ambassador to the US Meera Shankar had last week said the provisions of the Border Security Bill is discriminatory against Indian companies and asked the US to amend it.
Ms Shankar lodged an official protest to the US Trade Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk on 9th August, about five days before Obama signed the bill.
"We feel that the 'pay for' provisions of the Bill are not in keeping with the substantive cooperative agenda which the two governments are pursuing. We would ask that those provisions of the Bill that discriminate against companies of Indian origin may be suitably amended to create a level playing field for all companies," she said.
New Delhi: Bowing to pressure from the BJP and the left parties, the government today dropped a controversial addition in the civil nuclear liability bill, which the opposition said diluted the liability of suppliers for accidents caused by their negligence, reports PTI.
The Union Cabinet, at a meeting chaired by prime minister Manmohan Singh, put its stamp of approval on the Civil Liability for Nuclear Bill deciding to omit the word 'and' connecting two sub-clauses of the draft legislation.
With this, decks have been cleared for introduction of the bill in Parliament.
The Cabinet accepted almost all the key suggestions made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee which had submitted its report to Parliament two days back.
Sources said the amendments also made it clear that the operator cannot seek a right to recourse unless he has settled the full compensation claims of the victims of a nuclear accident.
The date of introduction of the Bill in Parliament is expected to be decided at a meeting of the business advisory committee of the Lok Sabha.
The semblance of consensus on the Bill was virtually shattered with left parties criticising the government of introducing the word 'and' between Clause 17 (a) and Clause 17 (b), a move they claimed diluted the obligation of foreign suppliers of nuclear equipment in case of an accident.
The BJP, which had agreed to support the bill, also joined the left and raised the matter with the government late last evening on addition the word in Clause 17 which says that "the operator of a nuclear installation shall have a right to recourse where—(A) such right is expressly provided for in a contract in writing".
The parties fear that insertion of the word 'and' dilutes the obligations on the suppliers of equipment in case of a nuclear accident.
The fresh concerns led to a series of consultations within the government all through the day yesterday and an agreement was reached within to not to accept the suggestion pertaining to that particular sub-clause in the committee report.
The report of Standing Committee on Science and Technology proposed that the Clause 17(A) may end with word 'and'.
It also proposed modification of Clause 17(b) to say "the nuclear incident has resulted as a consequence of latent or patent defect, supply of sub-standard material, defective equipment or services or from the gross negligence on the part of the supplier of the material, equipment or services".
Cairn India: The buzz in the market is that there are counterbids likely from RIL and ONGC. According to one report, Vedanta stands to make Rs5 billion if Cairn Energy fails to get shareholders’ nod for the deal or solicits a rival bid (a small price to pay if somebody seriously wants to counter bid). Another report states that since ONGC holds 30% in the Rajasthan block, it has the pre-emption or right of first refusal to buy Cairn India (in the block) in case of an ownership change. The block will be apparently valued at around $13 billion. Yet another report states that ONGC will be content to seek operator status on that block.
Tata Chemicals: Rakesh Jhunjhunwala is said to be accumulating the stock.
Tata Motors: There is some buzz of higher weightage in the MSCI index.
Austral Coke: Some rumours are floating around about Welspun looking at buying a stake. Austral makes low-ash metallurgical coke and refractories. It also trades in textiles and rents construction and earth-moving equipment. The promoter company also owns Gremach. Be warned that in January this year the government had ordered an enquiry by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office into alleged financial irregularities by Austral Coke. The corporate affairs ministry had apparently some evidence of fund diversion, manipulation of accounts, and tax evasion by the company. Austral is promoted by Ratan Lal Tamakhuwala and Rishi Raj Agarwal. Welspun is promoted by BK Goenka.
Oriental Hotels: Talk of promoters upping stake and a PE funding also coming in. In July this year, it talked of investing around Rs1.6 billion over the next two years in renovation and upgradation. The company is the Chennai-based associate company of Tata Group's Indian Hotels (which holds 19% in the company). It owns eight hotels with a total of 870 rooms. It is promoted by the Reddy family headed by Varada Reddy.