The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) proposed visa fee hikes are in limbo, awaiting final review by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). If approved, the new regulation could bring a substantial rise in costs for visa applicants and US employers sponsoring foreign workers.
Potential Fee Increases Across the Board
The proposed rule, initially outlined in January 2023, suggests considerable fee hikes for various visa categories, including:
H-1B Visas: The popular work visa for skilled professionals could see a 70% increase in application fees, jumping from $460 to $780. Additionally, the E-registration fee for the H-1B cap lottery might soar from $10 to $215.
Citizenship: Naturalization applications could become 19% more expensive, with fees rising from $640 to $760.
EB-5 Green Card Program: The proposed increases are the most dramatic for investment-based green cards. Initial I-526 petition fees would likely double, climbing from $5,450 to $11,160. I-829 petition fees for removing conditions on permanent resident status could hike by nearly 150%, jumping from $3,825 to $9,535.
Impact on Employers and Applicants
These potential fee increases raise concerns for:
US Employers: Higher H-1B costs could discourage them from sponsoring foreign workers, impacting talent acquisition and potentially driving up labour costs.
Visa Applicants: Higher fees could create a financial barrier for individuals seeking various visas, including citizenship and those aiming for green cards through the EB-5 program.
Uncertainty for H-1B Cap Season
While the proposed H-1B fee increases might not affect the upcoming March 2024 cap season, further revisions are possible before then. Employers seeking H-1B visas should factor in both the proposed and recently announced premium processing fee increases (12% to $2,805) when evaluating costs.
The OMB’s review holds the key to the proposed regulation’s future. Once finalized, the regulation would be published in the Federal Register, triggering a public comment period before implementation.
This issue will likely remain a contentious point in the ongoing debate over US immigration policy, with stakeholders urging the DHS to carefully consider the potential impact of these fee hikes on businesses, families, and immigration goals.