Debra R. Shpigler Co., LPA
NEW LAW RAISES H-1B CAP AND FEES
After years of debate, Congress finally enacted a law that substantially increases the number of H-1B visas available for highly skilled foreign professional workers for the next three years. In related legislation, Congress also increased the fees charged to employers who file petitions to employ these temporary workers.
The main statute, "the American Competitiveness in the Twenty First Century Act," increased the number of H-1B visas to 195,000 for fiscal years 2001, 2002 and 2003. This represents a substantial increase in the number of H-1B visas that would have been available if the new law had not passed. In fact, the actual number of people who can receive H-1B visas under the new law is likely to be even higher that 195,000 per year. This is because certain cases that used to be counted toward the H-1B cap will no longer be counted. These cases include those involving: (1) persons who will be working for institutions of higher education, research organizations that are affiliated with such institutions, nonprofit research organizations, and government research organizations; and (2) physicians who were previously in the U.S. on a J-1 visa, and who have obtained a waiver of the 2-year home residency requirement based on participation in the Conrad 20 program, among others.
The fee increase statute raises the "education and training fee" that employers must pay when filing H-1B petitions from $500 to $1,000, effective December 17, 2000. This fee is on top of the standard H-1B filing fee of $110. Certain educational institutions and nonprofit organizations are exempt from paying the education and training fee.
VISA WAIVER PROGRAM IS NOW PERMANENT
Over the years, many foreign nationals have taken advantage of the "Visa Waiver Pilot Program" (VWPP). This program enabled people from certain countries to visit the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa. The old VWPP expired recently, but President Clinton recently signed legislation making the program permanent. As a result, nationals of countries that are eligible for the program may continue making brief visits to the U.S. without first obtaining a visa. Currently, nationals of 29 countries may participate in the program, including Japan, Singapore, Venezuela, Argentina, Uruguay, most of Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Another section of this statute extends the immigrant investor pilot program. This special program enables certain individuals who have made significant investments in designated regional centers to obtain permanent visas ("green cards"). The immigrant investor pilot program is separate from the EB-5 investor visa program.This Immigration Bulletin is not intended as a substitute for professional legal advice.