US announces substantial fee hike for non-immigrant visas, impacting H-1B, L-1, and EB-5 categories

The United States has declared a significant increase in fees for various categories of non-immigrant visas, including the widely used H-1B, L-1, and EB-5 visas, particularly impacting Indian applicants. This fee adjustment, the first since 2016, is set to take effect from April 1.

The H-1B visa, essential for US companies employing foreign workers in specialized roles requiring theoretical or technical expertise, is heavily relied upon by technology companies, hiring tens of thousands annually from countries like India and China. Starting April 1, the new H-1B application visa fee (form I-129) will surge from USD 460 to USD 780, with H-1B registration fees increasing from USD 10 to USD 215, effective from the following year.

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The L-1 visa, a non-immigrant category designed for intracompany transferees, will see its fees rise from USD 460 to USD 1,385. Simultaneously, the EB-5 visa, known as the investors’ visa, will experience a substantial jump from USD 3,675 to USD 11,160, according to a federal notification issued on Wednesday.

The EB-5 program, initiated by the US government in 1990, allows high-net-worth foreign investors to secure a US visa for themselves and their families by investing a minimum of USD 5,00,000 in a US business, leading to the creation of 10 jobs for American workers.

The Department of Homeland Security, in its federal notification, highlighted that the adjustments in fees and forms would result in net costs, benefits, and transfer payments. Over a 10-year period (FY 2024 through FY 2033), the estimated annualized net costs to the public are projected to be USD 157,005,952, discounted at three and seven per cent.

The DHS argued that these changes would offer several benefits, including reduced administrative burdens, decreased fee processing errors, increased efficiency in the adjudicative process, and a better assessment of the cost of providing services, enabling more aligned fees in future regulations.

While the federal notification indicated minor reductions in visa application fees in some categories, the overall impact of the fee hike raises concerns for applicants and petitioners alike. As the US adjusts visa fees, applicants are likely to experience increased costs, prompting a closer examination of the implications for immigration processes and the financial burden on prospective visa holders.