A proposal to hike the US immigration fee, which will affect thousands of H1-B and L-1 holders, has been introduced to the White House Office of Immigration and Regulatory Affairs by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) last week. According to the new proposal, the United States is all set to increase the visa fee for H1-B visa by 22% and L1-B visa by 71%. Both visas are popular options among technology firms to hire and transfer highly skilled employees from one office to another.
The timeline for the hike is not clear yet as the USIC is currently experiencing a shortage of funds because of widely spreading the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of USIC’s treasures have also drained drastically because of the sprawling effects of the virus crises. In fact, USIC may also have to furlough around 18,700 employees if it fails to fulfil the funding demand. Amid serious financial difficulties, USIC has announced plans to reopen its field offices and asylum offices after June 4, 2020, to address non-emergency appointments only.
It was in November 2019, when the idea of fee hike was first proposed, wherein it recommended an increased fee for Form I-129.
Targeting at Techies and Seasonal Employers
Fee hike which was earlier proposed in November 2019 by USIC primarily targeted at some of the most highly sought-after visa programs among employers in the technology industry. According to the current plan, the USIC wants to increase the base fee for H1-B visa, which is a specialty occupation visa and L-1 visa, which is an intracompany transferee visa. The regulation also wants to charge $4,000 extra from those companies who would like to extend their worker’s visa. The rule applies to companies if they 50 U.S.-based employees and 50% or more of their workforce are on an H-1B or an L-1 visa. The visa hike will negatively impact the majority of Indian services companies with operations in the United States.
Nasscom, a popular software lobby body has criticized the proposal saying that only Congress has the right to decide on the visa fee hike.
In addition to this, the agency has also proposed to increase the fee for immigrants on H-2A agricultural guest worker visas and H-2B non-agricultural, and seasonal guestworker visas. This would be an added burden on employers seeking seasonal guest workers to pay additional thousands of dollars as a fee to employ foreign workers in each season.