The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Friday approved a final rule which will increase fees for non-immigrant work visas
effective October this year. This increases comes even as the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS
), which administers the visa process
and is dependent on income from visa fees has appealed to the Congress for emergency funding of $1.2 billion following a sharp drop in visa processing due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
As per the new fee schedule, employers filing visa petitions
will have to pay an average of 20% more from October. The final rule said the changes are meant to align visa fees with the time agency offices spend adjudicating petitions and applications. The rule is scheduled for publication in the 3rd August Federal Register and would be effective 60 days after publication.
Filing fees for H-1B high-skill visas will increase 21% to $555, while those for L (intra-company transfer) visas will increase by 75% to $850. In what would significantly impact Indian services firms, companies with at over 50 employees, where 50% or more are on an H-1B or L-1 visa, will pay an additional $4,000 or $4,500 for each visa extension. The H-1B visa
is normally issued for a period of three years, following which it can be extended twice. Industry associations like NASSCOM had filed their comments with the DHS protesting this additional charge, calling it illegal.
“USCIS is required to examine incoming and outgoing expenditures and make adjustments based on that analysis,” said Joseph Edlow, acting head at USCIS. “These overdue adjustments in fees are necessary to efficiently and fairly administer our nation’s lawful immigration system, secure the homeland and protect Americans.” The proposal to hike fees was first put forth in November 2019, and had been opposed by pro-immigration bodies like the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the American Immigration Council (AIC), on grounds that it would hurt US businesses.