All You Need to Know about USCIS’ Visa Fee Hike Proposal for H1B, L1, EB5 and Other Visa Categories

It will cost US visa seekers more to fulfil their American Dreams in the near future, as USCIS has proposed US visa fee hikes for H1B and EB5 aspirants. Other visa categories such as L and O is unlikely to remain immune to a steep hike in fees. Only the USCIS fees for premium processing of visas in all categories will remain unaffected; however, the premium processing timeline will increase from 15 calendar days to 15 business days as proposed by USCIS.

US visa fee hike, USCIS visa fee hike proposal, H1B fee increase

EB5 – the Golden Visa that ensures the fastest route to earning a Green Card – will cost foreign investors and entrepreneurs 204 times more than its current fees. If the USCIS’ visa fee hike proposal is approved, an EB5 visa will cost $11,160 instead of $3,675. This will surely be another setback to EB5 visa seekers, since the investment cap has been raised from $500,000 to a minimum $800,000.

The proposed H1B visa fee hike is, undoubtedly, not a fair surprise to H1B visa sponsors. The US employers hiring high-skilled foreign workers will have to shell out $780, a 70% hike on $460 per application. Moreover, the H1B pre-registration fee is proposed to get a steep hike by 2050% – from a meagre $10 to a whopping $215. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency reasons that they sought a significant hike in the H1B pre-registration fee based on a review of the increasing cost of managing the H1B registration system.

In its US visa fee hike proposal, USCIS sought a 201% increase from $460 to $1385 for an L1 visa, a non-immigrant visa for intra-company transfer. The O1 visa fee is likely to go up by 129%. O1, a visa for non-immigrant individuals with extraordinary ability or achievements, is one of the few options that highly-accomplished STEM professionals on H1B can switch to during the 60-day grace period following a layoff. They may find this option a deterrent in the event of the O1 visa fee increase.

Justifying the H1B, EB5, L1 and other visa fee hikes, USCIS said that the revision of the current visa fee schedule is a pressing need of the hour to meet the agency’s operating overheads, especially in view of the pandemic-hit revenue. The agency’s revenue plummeted by 40% during the pandemic – which resulted in freezing the hiring process and reducing the workforce, thereby affecting the capacity to clear backlogs. USCIS’ annual revenue is expected to rise from $3.28 billion to $5.2 billion if the latest revision of the visa fees is approved. The estimated revenue increase will help USCIS prevent the mounting of visa backlogs, upgrade the technological infrastructure, and augment the legal immigration system.

USCIS also proposed eliminating separate biometric services fee. At the same time, USCIS assured that the visa hike proposal would not impact the existing fee waiver eligibility norms for low-income groups. The agency also sought to introduce fee exemptions for visa applicants in the ‘humanitarian programs’ category.

The US visa hike proposal includes plans to introduce a new ‘Asylum Program Fee’ which will be levied on the employers filing Form I-129 (a petition for non-immigrant workers) and Form I-140 (a petition for employment-based LPR) for their foreign employees. The Asylum Program Fee, $600, will help the agency afford the expenses of administering the asylum programs.

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