- Proposal to H1B visa fee hike to fund the expansion of the apprentice program
- Currently, employers pay around $5,000 per H1B visa application
- Indian IT firms to be hit the hardest
Updated the article on 19th June 2020 with USCIS visa fee hike proposal
An application for the H1B visa must be sponsored by the company employing the immigrant. Under the current norms, employers spend approximately $5,000 as H1B visa fee. This may be set to change with a proposal by the US administration to hike these fees.
Currently, the filing fees are around $3,000 while an immigration lawyer charges between $2,000-3,000. The employer must also prove that they have sufficient funds to pay the applicant’s salary for a certain period of time.
Thus, the increased cost of the application will pinch employers seeking to hire skilled workers from overseas.
What Is H1B Visa?
While getting a job in the USA may be easy, getting the H1B visa that allows non-citizens to stay and work in the country is difficult for most people. The H1 visa may be the most popular visa for immigrants moving to the USA but it is also the hardest to get.
As the USA tightens its immigration norms, getting an H1B visa is set to become harder still. The US administration recently proposed a hike in the application fees for the H1B visa.
Why Is The Hike Being Proposed?
The hike in application fees is being proposed to increase the government’s funding to expand the apprentice program. This program trains American citizens to take on technology-related job profiles. This includes health care, advanced manufacturing, and information technology.
It aims at training Americans youth for roles at small and medium-sized businesses that were earlier being handled by immigrants. Currently, the budget for the expansion of the apprenticeship program stands at $160 billion.
Changes made to the Visa application Fee in the Past
This is not the first time a proposal has been put forward to increase the H1B visa filing fees. In FY 2017, the H1B filing fee was increased by $4,000 in certain categories.
This affected companies that employed 50 or more employees of which 50% were immigrants. This increased fee was applicable only to new petitions and not for extension petitions.
In October 2018, the premium processing fee was increased to $1,410.
Current Cost of Filing a H1B Visa Petition
The fee applicable for filing an H1B visa petition depends on many factors such as the size of the company, etc. The fee can be broken down as:
|Type||Fee In USD||Description||Paid By|
|American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 Fee||750 or 1,500||$750 for companies with less than 25 full time employees|
$1,500 for companies with more than 25 full time employees
|Fraud prevent & detection fee||500||Applicable to new H1B petitions and change of employer petitions. Not applicable to Singapore and Chile based petitions.||Employer|
|Fee based on Public Law 114-113||4,000||Applicable only for companies with more than 50 employees of whom 5% are immigrants on H1B visas||Employer|
|Premium processing fee||1,410||Optional||Employer or Employee|
|Immigration attorney fee||500-3,000||Applicable only to companies working with third party immigration attorneys||Employer|
|Visa stamping fee||Variable||Varies by country||Employee|
Who Will Be Affected By the H1B Visa Fee Hike The Most?
The proposal was put forward at the annual budget of the Department of Labor. However, it did not mention the categories on which it would be enforced. Given the immigration trends of the USA, Indian IT companies are likely to be hit the hardest.
These companies account for a majority of the H1B applications each year. A higher filing fee will be a financial strain for these companies.
Current Scenario Of The H1B Visa Approvals
To get an H1B visa, an applicant’s name must be drawn out in a lottery. Recent changes made by the USCIS have given the immigration authorities greater leeway in denying applications. According to one report, one out of every four applications for new H1B visas was denied in the past year.
In the fiscal year 2018, the Labor Department concluded 649 non-immigrant visa cases. Of these violations were noted in 553.
USCIS Proposes Visa Fee Hike
Apart from making the regulations stricter for the H1B visa, the US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has also put forward a final proposal on increasing the visa application fees.
The proposal was submitted to the White House Office of Immigration and Regulatory Affairs. If passed, the visa fee for the H1B visa may increase by as much as 22% while the fee for the L-1 visa used to transfer employees between offices may increase by 77%.
If passed, the H1B visa fee application could cost $560 while the L-1 visa would cost $815.
Fee Hike Proposal
The proposal to hike visa fees was first introduced in November 2019. The proposal recommends different fees for the I-129 form depending on the category of visa being applied for.
It also proposes additional fees of $4,000 for visa extension petitions from 50-50 companies. This refers to companies that have more than 50 employees of which half or more are H1-B or L-1 visa holders.
USCIS And COVID-19
As a result of having to shut offices and pause visa processing, the USCIS is currently facing a funding crisis. It has put forth a demand of government funding for $1.2 billion.
If this is not provided by July, the USCIS may have to put at least half of its employees on furlough. This would affect over 9,000 employees.
Reactions To The Fee Hike Proposal
Hiking the visa fees would significantly increase visa costs for a number of Indian IT service companies in the USA. Nasscom, the Indian software lobby body claims that this proposal is illegal since only the US Congress has the authority to change visa fees.
Two other pro-immigration bodies, the American Immigration Council (AIC) and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) have asked the US government to withdraw the proposal citing that increased visa fees may hurt businesses in the USA.
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