In January, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a proposed rule that would significantly alter fee structures for many visa applications. The USCIS proposal is intended to cover the costs associated with these applications, as the agency is primarily funded through filing fees.
According to the announcement, USCIS thoroughly reviewed the costs associated with immigration and naturalization applications of all types. This review was used to determine the proposed adjustments to application fees across employment, immigration, refugee visas, and naturalizations.
In general, the proposal would increase fees. While there are exceptions for low-income filers and humanitarian programs, many visas do not qualify for these programs. In particular, visas that require employer sponsorship will see significantly increased fees. If your business regularly sponsors H-1B employees, now is the time to prepare for these increases.
What to Expect From Increasing Fees
USCIS is increasing fees primarily to increase revenue for the department. The announcement states, “In 2020, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a dramatic reduction in receipts of new applications, resulting in a temporary drop in revenue by 40 percent. The combination of depleted cash reserves, a temporary hiring freeze, and workforce attrition has reduced the agency’s capacity to timely adjudicate cases, particularly as incoming caseloads rebound to pre-pandemic levels.”
This is why the department has proposed increasing rates significantly for applicants who can afford it. Proposed hikes include:
- H-1B Visa I-129 Form: Increasing from $460 to $780
- H-1B Visa Electronic Registration Fee: Increasing from $10 to $215
- L Visa I-129 Form: Increasing from $460 to $1385
- I-765 Electronic Form: Increasing from $410 to $555
- I-539 Electronic Form: Increasing from $370 to $525
- I-485 and I-131 Forms With Biometric Services: Increasing from $1225 to $2170
These increased visa fees are intended to cover the department’s costs. However, the changes to visa fee structures will also put a significantly higher burden on employers sponsoring foreign nationals. The average increase for these employment-related visa form fees is more than 70%.
The proposed increases above have not yet been finalized, so the specific numbers may change. However, as noted in the announcement, “USCIS generally publishes a fee rule biennially.” It is likely that significant increases to these visa costs are coming and will affect businesses most heavily.
Avoiding Fee Increases for Employment Visa Applications
The most effective way to avoid increased visa fees is to submit your applications for the current fiscal year. The current costs will remain standard until the USCIS releases a new, finalized schedule of fees for visa applications. Submitting applications before changes are approved ensures you will not be charged higher rates.
This is particularly important for businesses applying for H-1B employment visas for their candidates. The H-1B season is short and only comes around once a year. This year, companies can submit their workers for consideration in the H-1B visa lottery from March 1st to March 17th. H-1B candidates not registered during this period will not be eligible for consideration until 2024. By then, the increased fees will likely be in place, and the cost of hiring a foreign national will be significantly higher.
However, submitting your candidate this year can help you avoid paying hundreds of dollars more per application. At a minimum, your electronic registration costs will be capped at $10 per candidate rather than $215. Many other fee hikes can likely be avoided with prompt and accurate H-1B registration and application this year.
Experienced Legal Counsel for Cost-Effective H-1B Applications
While H-1B employment visas may be getting more expensive in the future, the USCIS proposal has not been finalized. Now is the time to submit your H-1B applications to avoid the costs imposed by changes to visa fee structures. However, rushing the process and making mistakes could increase costs, particularly if your registration or application is denied. It is in your best interest to ensure these applications are accurate and complete to minimize the risk of a candidate being denied.At Litwin & Smith, we specialize in supporting businesses like yours through the H-1B registration and application process. We are available to assist you with registering your candidates and submitting complete and accurate applications if a candidate is chosen in the lottery. Learn more about how we can streamline your H-1B applications by scheduling your consultation with our skilled immigration attorneys today.