Immigration and firm news

H-1 and L-1 Petition Fees Increase for Larger Employers

L-1 and H-1B visa petition fees are increasing for companies that employ 50 or more employees and have more than 50% of their US workforce in H-1B or L-1 nonimmigrant status.  On December 18, 2015, Congress passed and the President signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016.   The previous supplemental fees for this group of employers expired.  Therefore, this bill extends and raises the fees through September 30, 2025.  L-1 petition fees will increase from $2,250 to $6000 per covered worker, and H-1B petition fees will increase from $2,000 to $4,500 per covered worker. (A closer look at the bill shows language in Section 411.9-11 stating that the “combined filing fee and fraud and prevention fee” for H-1B visas by the covered employers above will be $4000.00 and $4500 respectively for covered H-1B and L-1 visa petitions.) Heretofore, there have been supplemental fees paid by these larger, heavy visa user employers paid on top of the base $325 fee, the $500 fraud and the $1500 ACWIA training fee for initial and extension petitions. The new bill would substantially increase the cost of hiring a covered H-1B visa employee from $4325.00 to $5500. The current fees are:

Base petition fee – $325.00*

Fraud & Detection fee – $500.00*

ACWIA training fee – $750 or $1500 ($1500 for employers with >25 FTEs) (Employee may NOT pay this fee!)

*PL 111-230 (pre-2016 Appropriations bill fee) – $2000 for covered workers (employers with 50=+ employees + 50% workforce in H status/$2250 for L-1 petitions)

*My reading of the bill, contrary to some other reporting on the subject, is that the separate $325 base fee and $500 fraud fee will be combined into the new $4000/$4500 fees for this group of employers and the old PL 111-230 will be eliminated or included in the $4000/$4500. Therefore, one adds in the ACWIA fee on top of the $4000/$4500 for a total of $5500/$6000 per H-B/L-1 covered worker. Keep in mind that these fee increases are just for the larger, heavy user employers meeting the 50/50 test described above.

Finally, add in the optional premium expedited processing fee of $1225.00.

The USCIS website is not yet updated with the new fees as of this writing. With H-1B preparation and filing season coming up, look out for updates to this site as well as to this blog.

Normally, these fees are paid with the petition when filed with USCIS or paid at the border when Canadians file H or L visas at the border.  However, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has received reports from members that the Department of State (DOS) is starting to collect the new fees in connection with affected blanket L petitions at consular posts. AILA has reached out to USCIS to confirm how it will be collecting the new fee, and how it will treat cases that were already in route to USCIS at the time the fee went into effect. Additionally, AILA has asked USCIS to implement a grace period whereby petitions that are filed without the proper fee are accepted, and issued an RFE to collect the missing or improper fee.

With H-1B cap season coming up, employers will obviously need to consider for which employees they want to spend this type of money. We have just been talking about government filing fees alone and not legal fees that can range all over the place. Since the increase is aimed at larger employers who use these programs anyway, for them, it may just be an increased cost of doing business despite Congress probably intending for the fees to be a deterrent to hiring foreign workers. If an applicant is not selected in the anticipated lottery, the fee checks and applications will be returned to the employer.