On May 4, 2016, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced via the Federal Register – the Daily Journal of the United States Government – its intention to increase certain government filing fees for visas of non-immigrant, as well as creating a new fee.
The average fee increase is 21%, however, visas used by American companies to bring skilled workers into the country, immigrant investors creating jobs for American workers, and immigrants with extraordinary abilities are the ones who will see the biggest increases in visa fees.
Sanwar Ali, editor of workpermit.com News, said the following:
US immigration law is probably the most complex in the world. It is also difficult and complicated to apply for various categories of non-immigrant work visas and immigrant work visas. The amount of documentation required for a visa application that often has to be submitted in duplicate, for example for an L-1 visa application, is quite astonishing. US government guides on how to complete visa applications can be incomplete and confusing.
Certainly, with modern technology, more applications can be made online. Instead, under the outdated system for nonimmigrant and immigrant petitions submitted to USCIS in the United States, checks or money orders must be submitted with paper petitions.
In many ways, the US visa processing system is overly bureaucratic and outdated. It is to be hoped that the money from the increased fees will be used for much-needed reforms to the current US visa system.
Significant visa fee increase of forty-two percent for L-1, E-2, E-1, H-1B visas and employment-based immigration
For U.S. visa applications using Form I-129, which is used to file the most common U.S. work visas, including the H-1B professional-level specialty work visa, L- 1, E-1 Trader Trader and E-2 treaty investor visas, O-1 extraordinary capacity visa fees will increase by 42%.
The 42% increase will also apply to E-1 Treaty Trader, E-2 Treaty Investor, and E-3/FTA H-1B1/TN Treaty Professional visas processed in the United States instead. only at a U.S. consular post or pre-flight inspection unit. abroad.
For U.S. visa applications using Form I-140, used for EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 employment-based immigration visas, fees will also increase by 42%, while for using Form I-526, which is required for an EB5 immigrant investor visa creating at least 10 jobs for American workers, will increase by 145%.
Fees for family immigration visas are expected to increase by 27%, which will apply to applications based on Form I-130, which are used by U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor certain close relatives for immigration. Form I-485, used for immigrants whose applications are processed for adjustment of status from within the United States through USCIS rather than a U.S. consulate overseas, will see a 16% fee increase.
Allegations that US visa fee increase is to cover USCIS costs
USCIS said the fee increases will be introduced in order to recover the costs of their services and maintain “adequate” service. However, many said current service levels are inadequate. Although the US Congress authorized USCIS processing times under the American Competitiveness of the 21st Century Act of 2000 (AC21), 16 years later USCIS is not meeting the standards set by the law consistently.
For the majority of employer-sponsored nonimmigrant visas, AC21 has set a processing target of 30 days, while a 180-day target has been set for most permanent immigrant visas sponsored by the employer. However, processing times are often double those targets or worse in some cases.
Contrary to the 30-day target, processing times for H-1B visa extensions using Form I-129 currently take five months. Meanwhile, on February 29, 2016, the USCIS California Service Center said the agency was processing Form I-485 immigration petition forms received before May 17, 2014.
Although USCIS has not raised fees in several years, many will wonder how US visa fee increases can be justified given the current low level of service. At this time, the fee increases are only proposals, but will most likely become final fee increases without any major changes, if any. It is understood that fee increases will most likely occur in the summer.