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White House Reviewing Rule Boosting Visa Fees for Employers

May 28, 2020, 2:25 PM

A final rule that would increase fees for businesses that employ foreign workers is one step closer to publication.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services submitted the regulation Wednesday to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, according to an online posting. Review by the White House regulatory office is typically the last step before a federal agency releases a final regulation to the public.

White House review of the final rule comes as the USCIS has said it’s facing an agency-wide funding shortfall due to decreased revenue during the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s seeking emergency funding from Congress, but no official decision has been announced.

Tech, Seasonal Employers Targeted

Fee increases under the proposed rule, published by USCIS in November, targeted programs popular with employers in the technology sector. For example, the agency proposed a 22% increase in the base fee for an H-1B specialty occupation visa petition. The regulation also would require companies to pay an extra $4,000 every time they extend a worker’s visa if they have at least 50 U.S.-based employees and 50% or more of their workforce is on an H-1B or an L-1 intracompany transferee visa.

The agency also proposed increased fees for named workers on H-2A agricultural guestworker visas and H-2B nonagricultural, seasonal guestworker visas, while limiting the number of named workers who can be listed on each petition. That means employers seeking large numbers of seasonal guestworkers could be on the hook for potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees petitioning for workers each season.

Workers in those seasonal guestworker visa programs largely have been deemed essential during the pandemic. The Department of Homeland Security relaxed requirements for H-2A and H-2B workers in the past two months, making it easier for employers involved in the nation’s food-supply chain to ensure they have a reliable workforce.

To contact the reporter on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington at gdouglas@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Lauinger at jlauinger@bloomberglaw.com; Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com