Law orders ‘anti-fraud’ fee

Cati Vanden Breul

A new federal law will require college employers to pay a fee for hiring foreign workers who hold a certain type of visa.

Departments that hire foreign faculty members, researchers or medical residents with an H-1B employment visa will be assessed a $500 “anti-fraud” fee per employee. It will be used by the government to prevent and detect fraud in the visa program.

The H-1B visa is used to hire foreign professionals with bachelor’s degrees. The new law is scheduled to go into effect March 8.

“The whole purpose of the H-1B visa is employment,” said Craig Peterson, International Student and Scholar Services assistant director.

The University employs approximately 300 H-1B visa holders a year, Peterson said.

But the fee will apply only to new hires or current workers who change employers, Peterson said.

He said the fee will make it harder for some departments to hire international faculty members or researchers.

“The additional $500 will be harder on some departments than others,” Peterson said. “The College of Liberal Arts is not really swimming in money, so it would be a big deal to them. But in departments where there is a lot of money to spend, another $500 won’t really hurt.”

Susan Cable, manager of graduate assistant employment at the University’s Office of Human Resources, said most hiring decisions are handled by separate colleges and departments.

“My hunch is that it may very well affect departments that do the hiring,” Cable said.

But Cable said it is too early to gauge the impact because the law has not yet gone into effect.

Peterson said some would like to see jobs kept in the hands of U.S. workers.

“The law may have been designed to steer employers away from hiring foreign nationals,” he said.

But Kevin Janni, head of thebiosystems and agricultural engineering department, said the fee will not deter his department from hiring foreign faculty members or researchers.

“We’re talking about hiring talented people. If they are the best, then we will pay that to get them,” Janni said.

“But I don’t want to discount that another fee will be an inconvenience.”

Kapil Bansal, Minnesota International Student Association president, said the fee was uncalled for.

“The University should not be slapped in the face with this,” Bansal said.

He said the fee will harm foreign scholars because it will lower their chances of being hired.

“If someone has to feel the initial pinch, it’s going to affect their decision,” Bansal said.

But Nadir Budhwani, a graduate student from Pakistan, said the law will affect large corporations more than universities.

“When you have a department of 100 people, you are not going to hire 50 or 60 individuals with H-1B visas,” Budhwani said.

But at businesses where the hiring is continuous, the extra cost to hire foreign workers will be significant, he said.

“The overall effect remains to be seen,” Budhwani said.