US Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a proposed rule Jan. 3 that significantly increases fees for many employment-based visas.
USCIS, which is primarily funded by immigration form fees, is required to review its fee structure every two years, but new fees haven’t been added since 2016 during the Obama administration, according to the Los Angeles Times. The proposal would push more of the cost of funding the agency that oversees the nation’s immigration system onto companies that employ foreign workers and ensure that those seeking asylum continue to pay nothing to apply for protections in the US.
“We have to run based on whatever comes in the door through our fees,” USCIS Director Ur Jaddou said in an interview with the Times. “We are now going on our seventh year without a fee increase, which is a long time, and a lot has changed since then.”
According to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published in the Federal Register, pre-registration fees for the H-1B program — which go to highly skilled foreign workers such as IT and some medical professionals — will increase to $215 from $10, while the petition fee will increase 70% to $780.
Visas through the Temporary Non-Agricultural Worker H-2B program — which provides visas to seasonal nonfarm workers such as landscapers, fisheries and resorts — will increase 135% for named beneficiaries to $1,080. In addition, fees for the H-2A program, which allows agricultural companies to bring workers to the country, would also increase 137% to $1,090.
The proposed rule includes a modest increase in the fee for certain naturalization applications while preserving existing fee waiver eligibility for low-income and vulnerable populations and adding new fee exemptions for certain humanitarian programs, according to USCIS. If finalized, the proposed rule would decrease or minimally increase fees for more than 1 million low-income filers each year.
Projected revenue from the proposed rule would allow USCIS to increase the number of adjudicators processing applications, implement technology improvements and increase support provided to individuals seeking information and assistance from USCIS.
“In addition to improving customer service operations and managing the incoming workload, USCIS must continue to fulfill our growing humanitarian mission, upholding fairness, integrity and respect for all we serve,” said Jaddou. “This proposed rule allows USCIS 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.”
The proposed rule has a 60-day public comment period, which started following publication of the NPRM in the Federal Register. USCIS will host a public engagement session on the proposed fee rule on Jan. 11.