USCIS Hidden Agenda in New Filing Fees
The advanced copy of USCIS’ new filing fee schedule was released to the public on July 31, 2020. The new fees will take effect for any applications or petitions postmarked on or after October 2, 2020. As expected the majority of filing fees for immigration petitions and applications have been increased, with a weighted average increase of 20%. The fee increase is the result of a regulatory process first proposed last fall.
The final rule covers 576 pages and includes a chart summarizing each form type and the new fees to take effect. Buried on page 531 is a minor change in language that results in a drastic change for companies with large numbers of H-1B and L-1 workers.
Currently, H-1B and L-1 employers who employ 50 or more employees in the United States with a workforce of more than 50% in H-1B, L-1, or L-1B status are subject to an additional filing fee of $4,000 or $4,500 for new petitions. This super fee is paid by an employer filing a petition for a change of employer (H-1B transfer) or new employment (H-1B or L-1 change of status or consular process). This fee has never been required for filing an extension of stay for an existing H-1B or L-1 employee.
The final rule quietly changes that.
Beginning October 2nd, every H-1B or L-1 petition filed by an employer meeting the 50/50 threshold must include the extra $4,000/$4,500 filing fee. The only exception is when an amendment is filed without requesting an extension of stay. This new fee hike lasts through September 30, 2027.
The expansion of the $4,000/$4,500 filing fee is clearly targeted toward punishing India-based technology companies. With a largely Indian workforce, many of whom are stuck waiting in the decades-long green card backlog, these companies will be forced to pay $4,000 more with every renewal filed over the next seven years because their employees are not able to adjust to lawful permanent resident status. While a common theme in the Trump Administration’s immigration policy is the protection of U.S. workers, the added expense of hiring an H-1B worker or transferring an L-1 visa holder to the United States will likely result in U.S. jobs moving overseas.