Visa Fees Raised to Fund Border Security

The USCIS has started to implement the fee increase in H-1B and L petitions as mandated by Public Law 111-230, also known as the Border Security Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010.

The fees collected will help fund the $600 million project of the Obama Administration to enhance border protection and law enforcement.

The hike in the filing fees are $2,000 for the H-1B petitions and $2250 for L-1A and L-1B petitions.  Subject to the hike are petitions postmarked on or after August 14, 2010.  It will remain in effect until September 30, 2014.

The additional fees are required to be paid by petitioners that employ 50 or more employees in the United States with more than half of the said employees in H-1B or L (including L-1A, and L-1B, and L-2) nonimmigrant status.  Full-time and part-time employees are included in the count.

When filing an H-1B or L petition, the petitioner will now have to include the additional fee or a statement outlining why the new fee does not apply.  If the USCIS does not receive the additional fee or a statement of explanation for nonpayment, it may issue an RFE (Request for Evidence).

Prior to the new law, the filing fees were $320 (base processing fee), $500 (fraud prevention and detection fee) and the applicable ACWIA fee ($1500 or $750) needed to file an I-129 form.  A separate fee of $1000 was also required for premium processing.

The visa fee hike has been criticized as unfair and discriminatory by Indian IT companies that would be affected the most.  They file an estimated 50,000 visa petitions, including H-1B and L-1 visas annually.

But Senator Charles Schumer, the main proponent of the new law and the fee hike to fund it said: “If you are using the H-1B visa to run a glorified international temp agency for tech workers in contravention of the spirit of the program, I and my colleagues believe that you should have to pay a higher fee to ensure that American workers are not losing their jobs because of unintended uses of the visa program.”

Senator Schumer also said that the border security bill had to be passed in order to generate Republican support for the comprehensive immigration reform bill that he has been passionately advocating.

President Obama who had endorsed the bill that he signed last August 13 said: “The resources made available through this legislation will build upon our successful efforts to protect communities along the Southwest border and across the country…So these steps will make an important difference as my administration continues to work with Congress toward bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform to secure our borders, and restore responsibility and accountability to our broken immigration system.”

Immigration advocates however have expressed doubts that the new law will help push immigration reform.  The president of the League of United Latin American Citizens said: “Efforts to overhaul our broken immigration system have once again taken a back seat to appeasing anti-immigrant xenophobes, as Congress passed another dramatic escalation in border enforcement with very little evidence that the past escalations have been effective.”