Visa Filing Fees Set to Increase for Employers

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer August 11, 2020
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​Immigration filing fees for most case types will increase for employers of foreign national workers beginning Oct. 2.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a final rule Aug. 3 adjusting fees by an average increase of 20 percent—about the same as in 2016, the last time fees were raised. The rule also splits the Form I-129 petition for temporary workers into different forms with different fees for each visa classification.

Employers with a high proportion of H-1B and L-1 employees will be required to make additional fee payments when filing petitions for these workers.

In addition to fee increases, premium processing—whereby employers pay more for expedited service—will be extended by a week (from 15 calendar days to 15 business days).

At the same time, fees for employment-based green card petitions and the biometric service fee required for most categories will be reduced.

Unlike most government agencies, USCIS is fee funded. According to the agency, the proposed fees account for increased costs to adjudicate immigration benefit requests; deter immigration fraud; and vet applicants, petitioners and beneficiaries.

"USCIS is required to examine incoming and outgoing expenditures and make adjustments based on that analysis," said Joseph Edlow, the agency's acting head and deputy director for policy. "These overdue adjustments in fees are necessary to efficiently and fairly administer our nation's lawful immigration system."

The increased fees come as USCIS is seeking $1.2 billion in emergency funding from Congress to make up budget shortfalls due to a significant decrease in filings this year. The fee adjustments were first proposed months before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but travel restrictions, consulate closures abroad and slower visa processing due to the pandemic have worsened the agency's finances. A plan to furlough most of its workforce has been postponed until August 31.

Maggie Murphy, an attorney in the Austin, Texas, office of Jackson Lewis, said that public commenters on the new rule "noted the administration's own policy failings created the need for increased fees, citing frivolous Requests for Evidence, long suspensions of premium processing and unnecessary in-person interviews," and included the suggestion that USCIS increase its own efficiency instead of "charging more and providing less service."

Key Fee Increases

USCIS is proposing to split up Form I-129—used by employers to petition for guest workers under the H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, L-1, O and TN visa classifications—into different forms with different fees imposed on each visa type. The current base fee of $460 covers all temporary-worker visa petitions.

The new filing fees will be:

  • For H-1B visas, $555
  • For L-1 visas, $805
  • For O visas, $705
  • For TN visas, $695
  • For H-2A visas, up to $850
  • For H-2B visas, up to $715

Murphy noted that the increase for temporary, seasonal agricultural and nonagricultural workers "comes despite the administration's recognition of the essential nature of workers involved in the food supply chain during the COVID-19 pandemic."

She added that employers whose workforce is comprised of at least 50 percent H-1B or L-1 workers will see even bigger increases. "Already paying an additional $4,000 for a new H-1B visa and an additional $4,500 for a new L-1 visa, those companies will be required to pay the additional fees for renewals as well," she said.

USCIS plans to publish updated forms before the new fees go into effect, including a new Form I-129 and a new Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization. Fees for applications for employment authorization will be increased from $410 to $550.

New Fees for Adjustment of Status Applications

John Quill, chair of the immigration practice at Mintz in Boston, said that while the rule includes dramatic fee increases for many petitions and applications, the most impactful may be that the overall cost for most adjustment of status (AOS) application filings will nearly double.

Currently, individuals seeking to adjust their status from temporary to permanent pay a filing fee of $1,225, which covers the adjustment application as well as applications for employment authorization and travel documents and any future renewals for those documents while the adjustment case is pending. "USCIS will no longer bundle the AOS filing fee with the employment authorization document and advance parole/travel document filing fees," Quill said. "As a result, instead of a filing fee of $1,225 for all three applications as a bundle, the fees for an initial filing of an AOS, plus employment authorization and advance parole filing fees, will total $2,270."

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