From Oct 2 fees for H1-B and L visa to cost more



In another blow to Indian techies and tech companies, the H-1B visa application fee is all set to increase from October 2, 2020.

The Department of Homeland Security announced a final rule that adjusts fees for certain immigration and naturalization benefit requests to ensure US Citizenship and Immigration Services recovers its costs of services. The final rule will increase fees for non-immigrant work visas effective October this year.

This fee hike comes as the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which administers the visa process and is dependent on income from visa fees, has appealed for emergency funding of $1.2 billion following a sharp drop in visa processing due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Note that unlike most government agencies, USCIS is fee funded. Fees collected and deposited into the Immigration Examinations Fee Account fund nearly 97% of USCIS’ budget.

USCIS said in its official release, “As required by federal law, USCIS conducted a comprehensive biennial fee review and determined that current fees do not recover the cost of providing adjudication and naturalization services. DHS is adjusting USCIS fees by a weighted average increase of 20% to help recover its operational costs. Current fees would leave the agency underfunded by about $1 billion per year.”

As per the new fee schedule, employers filing visa petitions will have to pay an average of 20% more from October. This final rule is effective from October 2, 2020.

Any application, petition, or request postmarked on or after this date will include payment of the new, correct fees established by this final rule. The H-1B visa is typically issued for a period of three years, following which it can be extended twice.

The DHS approved a final rule on July 31, per which employers filing visa petitions will now pay $555 fee (21 percent increase) for H-1B high-skill visas and $850 (75 percent increase) for L (intra-company transfer) visas, The Economic Times reported.

This hike will significantly impact Indian services firms that have 50 or more employees, where 50% or more are on an H-1B or L-1 visa as these companies will now have to pay an additional $4,000 or $4,500 for each visa extension. USCIS last updated its fee structure in December 2016 by a weighted average increase of 21%.

It is worth mentioning that the final rule encourages online filing by providing a $10 reduction in the fee for applicants who submit forms online that are electronically available from USCIS. Online filing is the most secure, efficient, cost-effective, and convenient way to submit a request with USCIS.

As such, industry body NASSCOM has filed their protest with the DHS, terming the move “illegal.” Pro-immigration bodies such as the American Immigration Council (AIC) and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) have also filed comments opposing the move as one that would “hurt US businesses.”