US hikes fees for non-immigrant visas; move to impact Indian IT firms

The US Department of Homeland Security, on Friday, approved a hike in fees for non-immigrant visas with effect from October this year.

According to the document accessed from the US government’s Federal Register, the DHS has adjusted United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) fees by a weighted average increase of 20 per cent, adding new fees for certain immigration benefit requests and establishing multiple fees for non-immigrant worker petitions. This comes after the USCIS, which administers the country’s naturalisation and immigration system, appealed to the Congress for a $1.2 billion bailout package amid the Covid-19 pandemic, which has severly impacted green card renewals and immigration processing.

In its official release, the USCIS said, “As required by federal law, USCIS conducted a comprehensive biennial fee review and determined that current fees do not recover the cost of providing adjudication and naturalisation services. DHS is adjusting USCIS fees by a weighted average increase of 20 per cent to help recover its operational costs. Current fees would leave the agency underfunded by about $1 billion per year.”

The filing fees for H-1B high-skill visas has been hiked by 21 per cent to $555, while that for L (intra-company transfer) visas has been increased by 75 per cent to $850. The proposal for the fee hike was put forth in November last year. India’s IT industry lobby National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom) and a couple of US pro-immigration bodies, had opposed the move at the time.

The move is expected to have a financial impact on Indian IT firms who are the major beneficiaries of these non-immigrant work visas. L-1 visas are issued for intra-company transfers. For instance, if an Infosys executive moves from India to the company’s office in the US, it will be on an L-1 visa. However, if the same executive is going to the US to work at a client site, he or she will be issued an H-1B visa.