Money matters

What higher H-1B fees will mean for Indians hoping to work in the US

The pre-registration fee for an H-1B visa is proposed to be increased by more than 2,000%
What higher H-1B fees will mean for Indians hoping to work in the US
Image: JONATHAN ERNST (Reuters)
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President Joe Biden’s administration has proposed a huge hike in fees for employment-based visas to the US. The increase is expected to help recover “operating costs and prevent case backlogs.”

The H-1B is the most sought-after US work visa among foreign professionals. Of the more than 407,000 H-1B visas issued between October 2020 and September 2021, Indians bagged more than 300,000—an overwhelming 74%.

The pre-registration fee for this category is now likely to rise from $10 now to $215—up 2,050%—according to a US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) release issued on Jan. 3.

“Although an increase from $10 to $215 may appear dramatic at first glance, the $10 fee was established simply to cover a small portion of the costs of the program, as opposed to no fee at all,” USCIS said.

Employers looking to hire high-skilled foreign nationals may have to pay 70% more for H-1B employees. The application fee for this category will increase from $460 to $780; that for L-1 visas will change from $460 to $1,385. Other visa categories, too, will witness significant increases in payment.

These fees are borne by the US-based employer and will, therefore, increase their hiring costs. The proposed new visa fee structure comes amid fears of a recession in the US. Wary technology giants like Amazon and Meta are already laying off employees.

The USCIS has said the hike will help fund its operations. Up to 98% of the service’s funding is met through such payments “and not from congressional appropriation,” it said.

However, these hikes will come into effect only after a 60-day public opposition period.