Application fees for the H-1B visa will jump 21%, and companies heavily reliant on the controversial visa will be hit with a new fee for extensions, under a regulation to take effect in October.
The basic visa fee will rise to $555 from $460, according to the final version of a U.S. Department of Homeland Security regulation to be officially published Monday.
The new rule also targets employers having at least 50 workers, and 50% or more of their workforce on the H-1B or on the L visa for company transfers. Currently, under a 2015 law, such companies pay a special fee of $4,000 for a new H-1B or $4,500 for a new L visa. The pending rule extends those fees to visa renewals. It was not immediately clear how many visa extensions would be affected.
Silicon Valley’s technology giants rely heavily on the H-1B and push for an expansion to the annual 85,000 cap on new visas, arguing they need more of them to capture the world’s top talent. Critics point to reported abuses and charge staffing companies and major tech firms with using the H-1B to drive down wages, supplant American workers and facilitate outsourcing.
Along with cost increases for the H-1B and L visas, the new rule specifies broad increases in the fees foreign workers and immigrants will have to pay for government services. The L visa fee will leap 75% to $805. Employment authorization for people such as H-1B spouses on the H-4 visa, and not under the DACA program, will cost $550, an increase of 34%. The price of applying for citizenship will nearly double, to $1,160 or $1,170, depending on filing method. However, the fee to apply for a green card will drop $10, to $1,130.
Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services gets most of its budget from fees from foreign workers and immigrants rather than congressional appropriations. The non-partisan Migration Policy Institute in a June report noted that the coronavirus pandemic had “brought immigration case processing to a near standstill.” Homeland Security said in the rule that Citizenship and Immigration is “unable to fully fund its estimated budgetary requirements … thereby necessitating fee adjustments in this final rule.”
But while the agency blamed the pandemic when asking Congress for $1.2 billion, falling visa application rates over the past two years and “increased spending on vetting and enforcement” reflect the priorities of the administration of President Donald Trump and “offer a deeper explanation for its revenue and budget problems,” the institute’s report said.
Immigration law firm Berry Appleman & Leiden in an advisory Friday on the new fees said the new regulation “may be subject to litigation, which could affect implementation timelines.”