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Getting More Expensive to Work in the U.S. - the H1B pre-registration fee may increase by 70%

If you are on an F1 visa and using day 1 CPT because you lost in last year’s H1B lottery, this news may concern you.

To better manage immigration operations and address the global backlog in visa processing, the US may raise costs for some visa categories.

On Tuesday, the Biden administration proposed to dramatically increase fees for employment-based visas while keeping prices for people applying to become U.S. citizens through humanitarian channels close to zero.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is primarily funded by immigration-form fees. The agency is required to review its fee structure every two years, but new fees haven’t been added since 2016.

USCIS Director Ur Jaddou said in an interview, "We are now going on our 7th year without a fee increase, which is a long time, and a lot has changed since then", indicating his support for the new proposal.

Reasons Behind the Change

Although the fee has not been changed since 2016, it is not the result of a lack of attempts. During the Trump administration, the president was trying to drastically increase the fee for people who are seeking asylum in America, which was met with criticism from immigrant advocates and politicians from the democratic party.

This time, the Biden ministration was targeting temporary workers instead of those who came to America for humanitarian reasons. It will indeed help with fully implemented changes that the Biden administration hopes to make to asylum processing at the border.

However, the move, if granted, is anticipated to cause a significant increase in H-1B visa application expenses, which will have a strong impact on both American and Indian tech enterprises.

70% Surge in Price for H1B Petition Fee

This new proposal showed “the administration’s mixed feelings about the value of temporary work visas,” Julia Gelatt, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute said to Los Angeles Times.

If this proposal passes, it means the pre-registration costs for H-1B visas will be increased from $10 to $215. The actual petition fees would also increase by 70%, while fees for an L1 visa, for intra-company transfer, would increase by 201%.

Additionally, a $600 "Asylum Program Fee" would have to be paid by companies submitting Forms I-129 (to sponsor their employee for H1B) and I-140 petitions (for employer-sponsored green cards), which would add significantly to employers’ visa expenses.


“Side Effects” on Battling H1B Abuse  

According to The Economic Times, USCIS claimed that the new fees would allow it to recover its operating costs more fully from COVID-19 impact; re-establish and maintain timely case processing; and prevent the accumulation of future case backlogs.

Another indication of the new proposal is that it may to a certain degree regulate the abuse of the H1B lottery. Ever since the H1B application changed to online filing in 2020, USCIS has had little control over H1B fraud cases.

The online system was designed to simplify the H1B application process. Instead of asking employers and H1B seekers to prepare all materials, they only need to fill out a simple form and pay a $10 pre-registration fee to be enrolled in the lottery. Only after they are granted an H1B, does the real filing and petition reviewing process start, which also saves time for USCIS.

However, some individuals abused the system and the extremely low ($10) pre-registration fee by filing more than a reasonable amount of applications at once. By increasing the application cost, multi-filing is expected to be restricted. This will give more people a fair chance to win the lottery.

The proposal will be open for public consultation for 60 days, following which a final rule may be published. USCIS will also host a public engagement session on the proposed fee rule on January 11, 2023.

Other ways to work in America without an H1B?


US likely to hike H-1B visa fees to fund immigration agency

Employers of foreign workers would pay more under Biden proposal

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