Employers would pay significantly higher fees to petition workers and sponsor them for permanent residency under a proposed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) fee rule. The rule is subject to a 60-day comment period, after which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may issue a final rule. The proposed regulation includes a new tax on businesses and universities to fund the US asylum program. The rule also proposes to significantly increase the fee for using the H-1B electronic filing system.
Increase in rates for employers
Under the proposed rule, employers hiring highly skilled aliens would pay 70% more for H-1B petition beneficiaries, 201% more for employees with L-1 petitions, and 129% more for individuals with O petitions -1. (H-1B petitions increase from $460 to $780, L-1 petitions increase from $460 to $1,385, and O-1 petitions increase from $460 to $1,055.)
To adjust status for permanent residence in the United States, filing Forms I-485 (adjustment of status), I-131 (for advance parole), and I-765 for a work permit (in paper) with biometric services will increase by 130% (from $1,225 to $2,820). These costs can multiply if a principal has dependents. Electronic filing of Forms I-485 and I-131 would be a 77% increase ($1,225 to $2,170).
Fees for designated beneficiaries for H-2A petitions (for agricultural workers) will increase by 137% (from $460 to $1,090) and for H-2B petitions (for seasonal non-agricultural workers) by 135% ($460 to $1,080). Economists would point out that fee increases for these visa categories would work against US policymakers’ desire for more workers to enter the United States legally.
An immigrant petition from a regional center investor will increase by 204% (from $3,675 to $11,160) and an investor petition to remove conditions of permanent residence status will increase by 154% (from $3,750 to $9,525).
Another element of the proposed rule is that processing the premium would take longer: USCIS would process a case within 15 business days instead of the current 15. Calendar days
Two significant fee increases: H-1B registration and asylum program funding
Employers will also notice two other major rate increases. First, “DHS [Department of Homeland Security] proposes a new asylum program fee of $600 to be paid by employers who file a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, or Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for an Alien Worker “.
Dan Berger of Curran, Berger & Kludt confirms that employers can pay this $600 fee more than once for the same person. For example, an employer may file an initial H-1B petition, an extension of H-1B status, and then file an immigrant petition (I-140) for an employment-based green card.
USCIS/DHS proposes to increase the H-1B e-registration fee for each beneficiary for an H-1B petition from $10, established in 2019, to $215, an increase of 2,050%. “DHS understands that an increase of $10 to $215 may seem exorbitant at first glance,” according to the justification for the proposed rule increase.
If, in the coming years, the number of H-1B filings remains the same as in fiscal year 2023, employers would collectively pay roughly $100 million more annually under the proposed rule, according to a National Foundation analysis for American Policy.
USCIS does not justify the proposed $215 fee very clearly, especially since the system has already been set up and running for years. “USCIS does not have information on the direct cost of H-1B registration, but USCIS estimated the indirect costs of the H-1B registration program using the same methods it used to calculate other fees,” according to the proposed rule. “The methodology for estimating the cost provides results that are similar to the USCIS immigrant fee, which was established as part of the 2010/2011 fiscal year fee rule. However, the registration fee H-1B contains and funds fewer activities DHS bases the proposed fee on the activity costs of the following activities: Inform the public [and] Management and supervision”.
It is not clear what the costs of “notifying the public” are for the H-1B electronic filing system beyond posting the information on the USCIS website. “Management and supervision” costs are also difficult to assess. One thing is clear: In other parts of the rule, USCIS considers it less expensive for the agency when forms are filed electronically (ie, employers and others pay less when filed electronically). However, a system that used to be entirely paper-based (completed H-1B petitions were emailed to USCIS) is now electronic, and employers are required to pay a much higher fee. On its website, USCIS states, “The electronic registration process has simplified processing…”
Concerns about rising costs
Members of the legal, business and academic communities sympathize with the challenges facing USCIS after years of accumulated problems. However, there are also concerns about the proposed fee rule.
“While I understand that USCIS needs to increase the fees for benefit applications, the proposed fee rule does not appear to address the real issues, which are, from our perspective as clients of USCIS, inefficiency in adjudications, outdated technology and processes, chronic understaffing and lengthy adjudications,” said immigration attorney Dagmar Butte of Parker Butte and Lane. “For example, increasing the combined fee for an I-485 adjustment of status filed simultaneously with an I-765 work permit application and an I-131 advance parole document from $1,225 to $2,820 would likely not will decrease the awarding times for work and travel permits, which currently average between 7 and 12 months.
“If history is any guide, my client, who is the spouse of a US citizen and has been waiting for his work permit to be approved since December 1, 2021, would likely not see much improvement at this time only as a result of a rate increase. . Processing times for these product lines increased after the latest rate increase was implemented.”
The impact of the $600 per job application fee to fund the US asylum program has also raised concerns. “For many colleges and universities, the proposed additional fee, on top of existing costs and other proposed fee increases, could be very difficult to absorb and could affect their ability to recruit the talented faculty and researchers they need to teach and conduct critical research.” according to Miriam Feldblum, executive director of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration.
Dagmar Butte points to two other problems: The $2,820 state fee adjustment in the proposed rule could cost a family with two children over 14 more than $11,000. “The proposal to charge more for paper submissions is also problematic,” he said. “In an ideal world, it makes sense. But in a world where USCIS routinely loses parts of submissions, still doesn’t have a reliable method for uploading supporting documents, and there’s little transparency about what happens after you click the “Submit” button, users are hesitant to use the electronic method. given the consequences even if USCIS causes the errors.”
The most covered immigration news in recent years concerns how to process asylum seekers at the Southwest border. However, members of Congress, who have spoken out on border issues, have not provided sufficient funds for asylum officers and other elements of the process. As a result, USCIS has attempted to address the problem by introducing a $600 fee on petitions for required workers and professionals.
In the private sector, consumers pay a price and receive a product or service. With the $600 fee on petitions to fund the asylum program, the federal government is requiring employers to pay for something from which they receive no benefit. USCIS is likely to receive many comments on the proposed higher fees.