News & Analysis

Brace for a Steep Hike in US H-1B Visa Fees

The hike is currently being considered and in case it does come about, could result in some extra costs for both US and India tech companies

Ever since the Covid-led travel restrictions were withdrawn, the United States has been struggling to keep pace with the burgeoning numbers of visa applications across the world, with India leading the pack. Visa interviews were being scheduled a thousand days from the formal application, a process that Washington wasn’t too happy about either. 

In recent times, the US has made all the right noises about reducing this waiting time with State Department official Ned Prince saying that things would get back to pre-pandemic levels in 2023. In fact, he attempted to soften the blow by highlighting that the US had issued more student visas in 2022 than in any year since 2016.  


Brace for a sharp hike in visa fees

However, what he didn’t mention is that the Washington administration is actively considering a sharp hike in fees for certain visa categories in order to manage immigration operations and to reduce the global backlog for visa processing. And one key segment is the H-1B visas, a key requirement for both Indian and American tech companies. 

The information came in a notice published by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services last week that indicated a sharp hike in pre-registration fees for H-1B visas from the current $10 to $215. It also said the actual fees would go up by a whopping 70% while fees for L1 visa required for intra-company transfer would spike by a mammoth 201%. 


There’s also an additional asylum fee now

As if these didn’t make things tough, the department has also proposed a $600 “Asylum Program Fee” that employers have to cough up while filling certain forms required for the visa applications. The two forms mentioned in the notice relate to non-immigrant employment visas and employer-sponsored green cards. 

Suffice to state here that folks from India stand to lose considerably if these recommendations do turn into law, given that more than 70% of all H-1B visa applications and close to 50% of all permanent residency permits issued each year come from this part of the world. 


Recovering what they lost during the pandemic

On its part, the US department says the proposed fees would allow it to recover operating costs that have spiraled in recent times  and help it re-establish and maintain timely case processing while preventing accumulation of visa backlogs as is the case today. The USCIS receives close to 86% of its revenues from filing fees, which had dropped considerably during the pandemic. 

Of course, there are those that argue that the department needs to hire more people to clear the pending cases and this requires the extra cash that it is asking for from those who’re already in queue for the visa appointment. 

The USCIS also clarifies that besides enhancing customer service operations and managing the growing workload, the visa offices need to fulfill the growing humanitarian mission, upholding fairness, integrity and the respect of all that arrive for travel documents. The proposed hikes would allow the department to more fully recover operating costs for the first time in six years and will support the Administration’s effort to rebuild the legal immigration system, it says. 

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