Fees charged to employers of guestworkers on temporary visas will increase almost across the board beginning in October, but a proposed rise for participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has been nixed, according to a final rule released Friday.
The new fee schedule increases fees for employers by an average of 20%, mirroring the 21% increase U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services implemented in 2016—but some visa categories will see steeper updates than others. The final rule said the changes are meant to align visa fees with the time agency offices spend adjudicating petitions and applications.
The final rule updates fees associated with Form I-129 petitions, which employers submit on behalf of workers on H-1B specialty occupation visas, L intra-company transferee visas, and for seasonal workers on H-2B and H-2A visas, among others.
The fee increases come as the agency is facing a budgetary shortfall amid the coronavirus pandemic. Covid-19 travel restrictions the Trump administration has implemented and consulate closures abroad have caused a significant drop in visa applications over the first half of the year, and USCIS is asking Congress for $1.2 billion in emergency funding.
The Department of Homeland Security, which houses USCIS, said it didn’t take pandemic-related effects into account when finalizing the rule. The fee review was conducted before the virus hit, and the agency “has no comparable historical data that can be used to project the scope, duration, and total effect this will have on USCIS’ revenue,” it said.
The final rule is scheduled for publication in the Federal Register Aug. 3 and will then take effect after 60 days.
Work-Visa Fees Rising
Filing fees for H-1B high-skill visas will increase 21% to $555, while those for L and O visas, granted to individuals with extraordinary abilities, will rise by 75% to $850 and 53% to $715, respectively. Employers filing for named beneficiaries on H-2A agricultural visas will pay 85% more in fees, while the charge for named beneficiaries for H-2B non-agricultural seasonal workers will jump by 55%.
Companies with at least 50 U.S.-based employees and with 50% or more of their workforce on an H-1B or L-1 visa will pay an extra $4,000 or $4,500, respectively, every time they extend a worker’s visa. The fee will apply to petitions filed on or before Sept. 30, 2027.
“USCIS is required to examine incoming and outgoing expenditures and make adjustments based on that analysis,” Joseph Edlow, the agency’s acting head and deputy director for policy, said in a statement. “These overdue adjustments in fees are necessary to efficiently and fairly administer our nation’s lawful immigration system, secure the homeland and protect Americans.”
DACA Increase Canceled
DHS said it received a total of 43,108 public comments on the proposed rule, which was released in November.
In response to those comments, the agency amended its proposal to eliminate a fee hike for DACA applicants. The cost was set to increase from $495 to $765, but will remain at $495 for work authorization applications.
DACA recipients, who are young, undocumented individuals who came to the U.S. as children, will have to pay that fee on a yearly basis, instead of every two years, under recent changes to the program.
Advocates for DACA recipients fear that increase in frequency alone could stop some participants from renewing their status, despite the agency’s reversal on the proposed fee increase.