An increase in US immigration fees would lower the number of visa applications from India.

The new H-1B application visa price has been raised from $460 to $780, and the H-1B registration charge will increase from $10 to $215.

Fees for obtaining US citizenship and hiring migrant workers, whether on an H-1B visa or an L visa (intracompany transfer), are projected to rise beginning April 1, 2024. Those seeking an investment-linked green card, often known as the EB5 visa, have been affected the hardest, as the US Department of State has raised some nonimmigrant visa (NIV) application processing fees. 

The EB-5 program, established by the US government in 1990, allows high-net-worth foreign investors to get a US visa for themselves and their families by investing at least USD 5,00,000 in a US firm that creates ten jobs for American workers. 

The prices for investor visas have increased from $3,675 (about Rs 3,00,000) to $11,160 (over Rs 9,00,000). So the investor would have to pay not just the minimal sum of $5,00,000 but additionally $11,160 in extra expenses, increasing his total investment cost to $5,11,160.

“EB-5 investors will now pay $11,160 for their initial I-526 petitions, a 204% increase, and $9,535 for their I-829 application to remove conditions on permanent resident status, a 154% increase.” 

However, processing timeframes for these applications might take several years. “Will they accelerate with this massive increase?” wondered US immigration attorney Cyrus Mehta. 

The new H-1B application visa cost, Form I-129, has increased from USD 460 (over ₹38,000) to USD 780 (over ₹64,000). The H-1B registration fee will increase from USD 10 (₹829) to $215 (nearly ₹17,000) starting next year. 

This non-immigrant visa enables US employers to hire foreign workers in specialized jobs that require theoretical or technical skills. Many of these technological businesses primarily recruit Indians. ” 

For example, an employee seeking an H-1B visa will be required to pay a $10 initial registration fee. This registration cost is scheduled to be hiked to $215 starting next year. Furthermore, following registration, both the employee and the employer must pay a visa application fee. 

This charge must be paid using Form I-129 and has been raised from $460 to $780. This takes the total cost of the application procedure to $790 (formerly just USD 470). 

Furthermore, if this registration is completed within the following year, the employer and employee will pay an extra $205, increasing the entire cost of the visa to $995,” said Keshav Singhania, Head of Private Client Singhania & Co. The latest rise in immigration fees, intended to reduce mistakes and improve administrative efficiency, is worrying. 

The 69.5% rise in H1-B visa costs announced by USCIS, which previously allowed US tech businesses to hire thousands of staff from India and China, would raise the burden on both the company and the applicant to apply for this visa, according to experts.

 “This fee increase is part of a larger adjustment in fees for various types of non-immigrant visas, and it is likely to influence the decision-making process for both individuals and organizations planning to apply for these visas.” For India, which sends a large number of H-1B visa holders to the United States, notably in the IT industry, the increasing expenses may affect the overall cost-benefit analysis of pursuing employment or projects in the United States. It may also influence Indian IT businesses’ labor deployment strategy and project pricing in the United States market. 

For example, in FY 2023, TechSolutions Inc. intended to deploy 50 personnel to the United States on H-1B visas. The initial registration fee for the company is $500 ($10 times 50 applicants, assuming they all register). If all 50 applications were granted, the application cost would be $23,000 ($460 * 50). However, if TechSolutions Inc. continues to send 50 personnel to the United States, the new registration fee will be $10,750 ($215 * 50). According to Ubeja, the application fee would be $39,000 ($780 times 50 approvals). The charge for an L-1 visa has been raised from $460 (about Rs 38,000) to $1,385 (over Rs 1,10,000). 

This visa is especially for intracompany transferees. It means that international corporations can shift a few employees from their headquarters to work in the United States for a while. “The huge rise of more than 200% in costs for L1 visas, which facilitate temporary intracompany transfers, and EB-5 visas for investors is expected to reduce the number of visa applications. 

The increase in L1 visas will demotivate multinational corporations from initiating intracompany transfers of foreign personnel to the United States, while the increase in EB-5 visas will dissuade investors from seeking a visa to the United States,” Singhania stated. 

Beginning February 28, 2024, USCIS intends to establish organizational accounts for H-1B process cooperation as well as online filing alternatives for some forms, boosting user convenience and efficiency. Although the government claims that this increase is necessary to improve administrative efficiency and pay operating costs, Singhania believes it is part of an effort to limit the influx of immigrants and visa applications to the United States.

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