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Letter from AILA President Kathleen Campbell Walker to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi Opposing the H-1B Fee Increase

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 07103164 (posted Oct. 31, 2007)"

October 31, 2007

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20510

VIA E-MAIL

Dear Madam Speaker:

As President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, I am writing to respectfully urge you to strike the Grassley-Sanders amendment that was added to the Senate's version of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008 (H.R. 3043). The Grassley-Sanders amendment #3396, as modified, would create an unjustifiable new fee for U.S. businesses that seek to stimulate American innovation and global competition. Adding what amounts to a $3500 tax on the existing fees associated with the H-1B visa program, which include a training fee of up to $1500 as well as various filing costs, makes it prohibitively expensive for many American businesses to hire the highly skilled workers they need to grow.

As you know, the H-1B visa program is utilized by U.S. businesses, school districts, universities, hospitals, and other entities to supplement their existing work force with foreign workers in occupations that require experience in a specialized field. The current regulatory requirements and costs of the H-1B program already render the program a last resort for many entities to fill essential positions. Typical H-1B occupations include scientists, architects, engineers, computer programmers, teachers, accountants, and doctors. As you also know, the demand for these visas far out strips the supply as underscored by the allocation of all available H-1B visas this year on the first day they became available. In April of 2007, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) received more than 130,000 applications for the 65,000 available H-1B visas. Due to this high demand, H-1B petitioners were subject to a lottery system for selection. Thus, many timely filings were rejected after the expenditure of countless hours of preparation to comply with current regulations.

The Grassley-Sanders amendment is essentially a tax hike on our nation's most innovative businesses, which are in a global competition for market share to the benefit of the U.S. economy. This draconian fee proposal comes after major fee increases by USCIS this year with no relief from the woefully insufficient annual allotment of H-1B visas. Moreover, this tax hike is flatly inconsistent with the principles of your innovation agenda.

At a time when the European Union is working on ways to attract these same workers by creating the "Blue Card," a temporary work visa for highly educated foreign professionals, our policies should facilitate recruitment of these very same workers. This ill advised, unilateral fee increase will make it even more difficult for American companies to recruit the top foreign students graduating from U.S. universities and will push these future innovators to work for our competitors overseas.

If the United States is to remain on the cutting edge of technology and business innovation as well as enable U.S. secondary and primary educational institutions to fill critical positions, we must continue to have a robust H-1B program, not an inaccessible one.

Again, I urge you to strike the Grassley-Sanders amendment from the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act conference report. Thank you for your attention to this important issue. If we can provide any additional information to your office on this issue, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Respectfully submitted,

Kathleen Campbell Walker

President

Cc: Majority Leader Hoyer
Republican Leader Boehner
Majority Whip Clyburn
Republican Whip Blunt
Chairman Conyers
Subcommittee Chairwoman Lofgren