Visa Crunch

Relief for H-1B, L work visa holders as US judge puts fee increase on hold

Indians and other foreign workers seeking H-1B, L-1B work visa, international students, new citizens who were getting ready for an increase in the immigration-related fees can relax for a while.

Judge Jeffrey White, a US district court judge in California has approved a preliminary nationwide injunction against a US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) fee rule that was going to be imposed on 2nd October 2020. USCIS was preparing to increase the fee of applying for US citizenship up by more than 80%, from $640 to $1170. Further, the application fee for an H1-B visa was going to be hiked nearly 21%, from $460 to $550. The filing fees for L-1 visas was looking at a steep rise of 75% to $850. Also blocked were changes like the first-ever fee of $50 for those applying for asylum.

Judge White also questioned the legitimacy of the fee hike under the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, who was not properly designated to the position. 

After being let down USCIS issued a statement calling Northern District of California’s Judge White’s decision as “unfortunate”, as they believe it will leave  USCIS underfunded by millions of dollars each business day they don’t enforce the fee hike proposal. USCIS Deputy Director of Policy Joseph Edlow said that as his agency is fee-funded, they have determined that current fees do not recover the cost of providing adjudication and processing immigrants. Edlow also stated, “This decision barring USCIS from enacting its mandatory fee increase is unprecedented and harmful to the American people”.

Businesses having more than 50 workers with 50% or more of their employees in H-1B and L-1 status would also be required to pay an additional $4000 fee on extensions. This rule will also increase the price of petitions by more than 50% for E, P, Q, R, O and TN visas.

Rajiv S. Khanna, who is an Arlington based managing attorney at said that “Two conclusions are inescapable from this decision – that the Donald Trump administration wishes to impede legal immigration to an extent that the laws will not permit; and that the institutions in the USA, despite serious strain, still work. Immigrant population takes heart in the fact that the courts are still effective in curbing encroachment upon the Rule of Law”.

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