U.S. Employers should be aware of a proposed fee hike recently announced by the USCIS. If the agency goes ahead with plans unaltered, the fees charged for H-1B visa applications could jump from the current fee of $460 up to $780, a 70% increase. Fees have not changed since 2016, so an increase now is not entirely unexpected.
Although immigration attorneys, employers, and foreign-born workers understand that fees go up, now could be the worst possible time to implement an increase. Strict regulations already make it difficult for employers, particularly in the tech sector, to get foreign workers here. Furthermore, many companies are looking for ways to decrease spending due to an economy that has flattened out, especially in the tech sector. Increasing application fees so drastically could put a further damper on efforts to recruit workers and bring them to this country.
Like Gasoline on a Fire
Business Insider’s Paayal Zaveri likens the proposed fee increase to pouring gasoline on a fire. Zaveri explains that immigration attorneys and their clients are already struggling to fill open positions in the tech sector. So much so that vacant jobs waiting to be filled may not be filled for some time. Higher fees for visa applications only puts another stumbling block in the way.
As for the USCIS, their proposal is being pitched as a way to speed up the adjudication process. They say the agency is still facing a backlog of applications they simply do not have the time and resources to deal with as quickly as they should. Increasing application fees would allow the USCIS to bring in more talent and resources. At least that is the explanation being given.
At the time of this writing, the proposed fee increase was on hold for the standard 60-day comment period required by law for all new federal rules. It is not likely that the USCIS will turn back their proposal even if the vast majority who comment on it voice opposition to higher fees.
Not the First Time
The Biden administration is taking heat for attempting to raise fees on H-1B visa applicants. But the administration says higher fees for the H-1B program will allow the government to keep offering other visa programs for free. For example, they do not want to start charging an application fee on foreign nationals seeking asylum in this country.
This is not the first time the asylum issue has come up. The Trump administration attempted to implement a $50 fee for asylum seekers. At the same time, the administration sought to bring an end to fee-waiver programs.
Someone Has to Pay
Both the Trump and Biden administrations have been criticized for increasing the financial burden on foreign nationals looking to come to the U.S. But when push comes to shove, someone needs to pay for application processing and adjudication. USCIS employs many officers to adjudicate and carry out the work to handle applications for immigration benefits. Whether efficiencies could be implemented to make each USCIS employee more effective is another matter.
The question then becomes one of who should foot the bill. Should it be immigrants looking to come to the U.S. or taxpayers who already live and work here? There is no easy answer to the question. It is one that has engendered debate for as long as any of us can remember.
We Will Keep an Eye on Things
Rest assured that we will keep an eye on things moving forward. If the new application fee does go into effect, it is undoubtedly going to have an impact on some companies and their ability to bring in foreign talent. We will be standing by as expert immigration attorneys ready to assist any companies that need our help.