The US has announced a steep increase in fees for various categories of non-immigrant visas like the H-1B, L-1 and EB-5, the most popular among Indians.
The fee hike, first after 2016, will come into force from April 1.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.
The EB-5 programme, launched by the US government in 1990, enables high-net-worth foreign investors to obtain a US visa for themselves and their families by investing a minimum of USD 5,00,000 in a US business that helps create 10 jobs for American workers.
To come into force from April 1, the new H-1B application visa fee, which is form I-129, has been increased from USD 460 to USD 780. The H-1B registration will increase from USD 10 to USD 215, but from next year.
The fee for L-1 visas has been increased from USD 460 to USD 1,385, and that of EB-5 visas, popularly known as investors visas, has jumped from USD 3,675 to USD 11,160, according to a federal notification issued on Wednesday.
The L-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa category in the US that is designed for intracompany transferees. It allows multinational companies to transfer certain employees from their foreign offices to work in the US temporarily.
The fee adjustments, as well as changes to the forms and fee structures used by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), will result in net costs, benefits, and transfer payments, the Department of Homeland Security said in its federal notification.
For the 10-year period of analysis of the rule (FY 2024 through FY 2033), the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimates the annualised net costs to the public will be USD 157,005,952, discounted at three and seven per cent.
Estimated total net costs over 10 years will be USD 1,339,292,617 discounted at three per cent and USD 1,102,744,106 discounted at seven per cent.
DHS argued that the changes in the final rule will also provide several benefits to it and applicants/petitioners seeking immigration benefits.
For the government, the primary benefits include reduced administrative burdens and fee processing errors, increased efficiency in the adjudicative process, and the ability to better assess the cost of providing services, which allows for better-aligned fees in future regulations.
The primary benefits to the applicants/petitioners include reduced fee processing errors, increased efficiency in the adjudicative process, the simplification of the fee payment process for some forms, elimination of the USD 30 returned check fee, and for many applicants, limited fee increases and additional fee exemptions to reduce fee burdens.
In many categories, the federal notification has made a minor reduction in visa application fees as well.