After the announcement of the final rule by USCIS, ever since 2016, that introduced fee hikes in diverse immigration applications which ultimately resulted in a lower intake of visa applications from India. From April 1, 2024, there’ll be a significant surge in fees for obtaining U.S. citizenship or hiring foreign nationals.
Keshav Singhania, Head-Private Client Singhania & Co. says, “An employee now applying for the H-1B visa, will have to pay the initial registration fee of $10 for H-1B registration. This registration fee has been proposed to be increased to $215, effective next year.
Furthermore, after the registration, the employee and the employer will have to pay a fee for the visa. This fee has to be paid through Form I-129 and has been increased from $ 460 to $780. This brings the total cost of the entire application process to $790 (which would have earlier been only USD 470). Additionally, if this registration is done in the next year, the employer and employee will incur an additional cost of $205, bringing the total cost of the visa to $995,”
USCIS received more than 5,400 public comments after the notice of proposed rulemaking went public in January 2023. Considering all those comments/feedback, the final rule is made and will be implemented on April 1, 2024.
The proposed H-1B registration fee hike is massive from $10 to $215. Later, the visa payment that succeeds the registration process will be made through Form I-129, which is increased to $780 from the previous $460. Besides, if the registration is done the next year, there’ll be an additional cost of $205.
Thus, he notes, “The substantial increase of over 200% in fees for L1 visas, facilitating temporary intracompany transfers, and EB-5 visas for investors, is anticipated to result in a reduction in the volume of visa applications. The hike in L1 visas will demotivate the MNCs from taking the initiative of intracompany transfers of foreign employees to the US, whereas the hike in EB-5 visas is bound to discourage investors from applying for a visa to the US.”
Suppose, Company A plans to send 30 employees to the United States on H-1B visas and all are registered eventually. As per the previous cost rates, the initial fees for registration would be $300 ($10 multiplied by 50) and the application cost would be $13,800 ($460 multiplied by 30).
Whereas, now after the significant surge in both registration and application fees, the new registration cost would turn out to be $6,450 ($215 * 30 registration) and the application cost would amount to $23,400 ($780 * 30 registrations).
While keeping oneself in the shoes of the U.S. immigration law authority, two possible positive causes behind such a hike are visible- one is a reduction of errors in the registration process, and the other is aimed at improving administrative efficiency in terms of operation costs and time. As USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou says, “Despite years of inadequate funding, the USCIS workforce has made great strides in customer service, backlog reduction, implementing new processes and programs, and upholding fairness, integrity, and respect for all we serve.”
However, experts believe that the U.S. tech-based companies that hire countless India or China-based employees will suffer from low intakes after putting financial pressure on both the applicant and the company. USCIS announces 69.5% hike in the H-1B visa fees. A Senior Associate of SKV Law Offices, Anant Singh Ubeja opines, “This fee hike is part of a broader adjustment in fees for various categories of non-immigrant visas and is likely to affect the decision-making process for both individuals and organizations planning to apply for these visas.
For India, which sends a significant number of H-1B visa holders to the U.S., particularly in the IT sector, the increased costs could influence the overall cost-benefit analysis of pursuing employment or projects in the U.S. It may also impact the strategies of Indian IT companies regarding their workforce deployment and project pricing in the U.S. market.”
The fee for obtaining a green card has also been hiked, both for your spouse and yourself. Fees for Form I-130 (family reunification and includes marriage to ensure smooth immigration of your spouse) amount to $675, however, it’ll be $625 if you file online. To acquire permanent status through a green card, the spouse will encounter a fee surge from $1,225 to $1,440 (an 18% hike).
In case you bring your fiancé to the U.S. (through Form I-129F), you must note that the fees rise from $535 to $675, which is a hike of 26%. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) states that they don’t “believe that the I-129F fee increase will encourage out-of-country marriages, since, if the couple marries abroad, instead of paying $675 to file the I-129F for their fiancé to immigrate, the petitioner would need to file Form I-130 for their spouse to immigrate. This final rule increases the fee for online I-130 filings to $625 and paper filing to $675: therefore, out-of-country marriage would not result in significant cost savings.”
The biggest surge is for those seeking investment-linked green cards i.e. EB-5 investors. They’ve to pay $11,160 for their initial I-526 petitions, which is an increase of 204%, along with $9,535 for their I-829 application to eradicate conditions applied on permanent resident status, which is an increase of 154%.
To bring out the seriousness of such a hike to the forefront, the CEO of Boundless Immigration firm, Xiao Wang asserts, “As the 2024 presidential election brings immigration issues, particularly at the southern border, into sharp focus, the Biden administration’s significant hike in immigration fees this spring demands closer scrutiny. Contrary to what some may perceive, this increase, far exceeding the one proposed under the Trump administration, primarily impacts immigrants who are already part of our communities and workforce, as well as businesses facing labor shortages. The irony in the timing of this policy’s implementation on April 1st is not lost on me. While it may coincide with April Fool’s Day, the implications of this fee hike are no laughing matter. It is a serious decision that affects those on the legal path to immigration and companies relying on international talent.”
To end on a positive note, we must learn what the President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Farshad Owji has to say about the effective ways of utilizing the funds received by USCIS, “USCIS must use the additional revenue to reduce processing times by streamlining adjudications and leveraging technology. We also urge the agency to utilize fee waivers as generously as possible, ensuring that those with fewer resources have the same meaningful chance at obtaining immigration benefits.”
Table of contents
Here’s a list of frequently asked questions about the USCIS fee hike:
How can I calculate the new fees for my application?
To learn how to calculate the new fees for your application, you must go to the USCIS website where you’ll have to enter your case data and receive the estimated fee to be paid after April 1, 2024. But we have covered this question above in our blogpost.
Are there any fee waivers available under the new structure?
Positively! Those who’re unable to pay must demonstrate proof to avail fee waiver option granted by USCIS. For more information regarding fee waiver, you can visit the USCIS website.
When exactly will these new fees come into effect?
The new fees come into effect from April 1, 2024.
How will this fee increase impact processing times?
USCIS will possibly utilize the additional revenue to address application backlogs and make improvements in their processing times.
However, there are other factors such as the volume of applications and workforce and more that will influence the processing times.