DHS Increases Filing Fees and Executive Order Raises H-1B Scrutiny

On August 3, The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a new fee schedule under their final rule, that increases government filing fees for certain immigrant and non-immigrant petitions, which fees take effect from October 2, 2020.

U.S. companies sponsoring an H-1B worker will now have to pay an increased base filing fee of $555 (a 21% increase from the existing $460).  Companies filing petitions to sponsor their L-1 intracompany transferees are looking at significant increase from the base filing fee of $460 to $805 per petition.  What’s more, for each L-1 and H-1B extension petition, an employer who has more than 50 employees, more than 50% of whom are in H-1B or L-1 status, has to pay the $4,000 fee (for an H-1B petition) and $4,500 (for an L-1).   At present, such employers are required to pay this additional (border security) fee of $4,000 or $4,500 only at the time of the initial or change of employer petition filing.  But now this fee extends to each L-1 and H-1B extension petition as well which is a significant recurring cost for employers.

Fees for applying for U.S. citizenship have risen from $640 to $1,170 as also for H-4 EAD spouses – from the current $370 to $550.  Also, total filing fees for adjustment (I-485) applications and ancillary benefits will nearly double.

The premium processing (expedite service) adjudication period of 15 calendar days will increase to 15 business days, which in effect is three weeks, thus increasing the adjudication period by a week’s time.

In a further bid to clamp down on the work visas, President Trump signed an Executive Order on August 3 – Aligning Federal Contracting and Hiring Practices with the Interests of American Workers – that essentially prevents federal agencies from employing H-1B workers.   The Order directs the heads of the DHS and Department of Labor to “protect United States workers” from any damage to wages or working conditions caused by employment of foreign citizens on the H-1B visa. The Order also directs chiefs of federal government agencies to audit their use of foreign contract workers.  Secretaries of Labor and Homeland Security, under the Order, are required  to “take action” within 45 days “to protect United States workers from any adverse effects on wages and working conditions caused by the employment of H-1B visa holders at job sites (including third-party job sites).”

This Order is in keeping with Trump’s 2017 executive order – ‘Buy American, Hire American’.  These measures come as no surprise since the Trump Administration has long been planning to overhaul and restrict employment immigration, particularly the H-1B program.

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