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The H1-B is one of the most prized visas among foreign nationals seeking to immigrate to the United States, with a precious few granted to some of the most skilled and accomplished of applicants. Obtaining an H1-B visa can be very difficult (check out our H1B visa guide if you want to give yourself the best chance of getting one), and not just because of the high standards and vetting involved in seeking one. There is also a range of fees incurred throughout the application process which can vary depending on the status of the applicant and the specifics of the application.
The basic fee, the fraud prevention fee, the premium processing fee, and so many others–it’s important to know all the potential costs involved before you begin the application process, especially the costs particular to your situation and country of origin. This article provides a detailed guide on all the fees involved in the process so you’ll be prepared when the time comes.
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Part of what makes the H1-B visa difficult to obtain is that the employer must cover most of the fees involved in the application. This makes the total cost of bringing in a foreign national on an H1-B visa quite high, so an employer must be highly motivated to do so and see the process through. The following chart provides a breakdown of the different fees involved and their amounts:
|Type of Fee||Amount of Fee (in USD)|
|Basic Fee for Visa Filing||$460|
|AICWA or American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 fee||$750 $1500|
|Fraud Prevent and Detection Fee||$500|
|Fee that is based on Public Law 114-113||$4000|
|Premium Processing fee (if needed urgently)*||$1,225*|
|Immigration Attorney Fee||$500-$3000|
|H1B Visa Stamping Fees||Varies, depending on the country|
Important Note: Between April 2, 2018 and September 10, 2018 the Premium Processing option has been suspended, applying to all cap-subject petitions for fiscal year 2019.
The Basic Fee for the H1-B visa–the baseline cost of filing an I-129 H-1B application–is currently $460. This fee is unchanged from last year but was significantly increased from the previous $325, so it’s important to keep track of changes in fees so that your application is properly processed. Always check the USCIS website before filing an application.
The basic filing fee applies not only to first-time applications but also must be paid when the visa holder wishes to transfer or amend their visa status, or if they are renewing their visa. It is the duty of the employer or H1-B sponsor to cover the basic filing fee since it is their wish to bring a foreign national in to fulfill their employment needs.
The AICWA Act of 1998 imposed a fee on businesses for hiring and training foreign nationals rather than American workers and is also known as the “training” fee. Since the training and accompanying fee are a business expense, the employer must cover this fee. There are two different categories under the AICWA: employers with 1-25 full-time employees, and those with over 25 full-time employees.
The fee for businesses with 1-25 full-time employees is $750, while businesses with over 25 full-time employees must pay $1500. Certain institutions hiring foreign nationals are exempted from this fee, though, including primary and secondary schools, governmental research institutions, and non-profit organizations affiliated with academic institutions.
This $500 fee is applicable when a prospective H1-B visa holder is filing a new application or changing employers; if the applicant is simply renewing his or her H1-B with the same employer this fee is not required. Since this is a business expense and required by law, it is the employer’s duty to cover this fee.
The fee provides the USCIS with the resources to vet applicants and prevent fraudulent applications from being processed. It also places another obstacle in the path to obtaining an H1-B, further restricting the number that are processed.
Public Law 114-113 imposes a $4000 fee on businesses who have more than 50 employees, over half of whom are H-1B or L-1 Visa status. The aim of this steep fee, like the AIWC fee, is to penalize larger businesses who rely too heavily on foreign labor rather than hiring American workers. Thus, the fee must be covered by the business. After a business has 50 employees with over half on an H1-B or L-1 they must pay a $4000 fee for each new H-1B worker hired.
The time frame for processing an H-1B visa can be lengthy, which often causes problems for applicants who need documentation quickly. The Premium Processing fee gives applicants the option of circumventing this process, guaranteeing that it will be completed within 15 calendar days for a $1225 charge. This fee is optional and does not improve the applicant’s chances of being accepted.
The Premium Processing fee may be paid by either the employee or the employer. If the employee pays the premium fee the application must be accompanied with an explanation written by the employer detailing why this was necessary. This explanation is required so that employees are not compelled to pay for Premium Processing by their employer.
Each H-1B application has its own nuances and specific requirements based on the circumstances of the applicant and what they seek to accomplish in the United States. This wide variation in possibilities and the issues that can potentially arise throughout the process make hiring an immigration attorney a necessity for many. Some wait until problems arise before doing so, while others retain an attorney to streamline the process from end to end. Having an attorney handle the application process can improve the chances of acceptance, especially in more complex cases. The cost of an immigration attorney varies greatly, from anywhere from $500 to $3000 or more.
Upon entering the country H-1B visa holders must get their passports stamped with an H-1B stamp to indicate that their application was successful and they were granted the visa. The cost of this stamp depends on the visa holder’s country of origin. The requirements for receiving the stamp are as follows:
As stated above, most fees incurred in the visa application process are the responsibility of the employer or sponsor. For fees that applicants must themselves pay, the I-29 Immigration Form stipulates that there are only two valid forms of payment: money orders or checks. Each new visa fee requires a separate payment in this form.
Typically the USCIS retains the fee regardless of whether the application is accepted or not. However, if an application was entered into the annual lottery and not selected, the USCIS will refund the fee. Applicants may also receive a refund if:
The only fee that must be paid upon transfer or extension of an H-1B visa is the basic filing fee for the I-129, while the applicant has the option of paying the Premium Processing fee. Any other fees involved with transferring or extending the visa must be covered by the employer.
The numerous fees incurred throughout the process of obtaining an H-1B visa is a major factor in the difficulty many have in getting one. Some of the fees were put in place specifically to discourage employers from hiring foreign nationals, and there can be steep prices to pay for doing so. Thus, finding a motivated sponsor is perhaps the most valuable step you can take to ensure success. Next is a detailed understanding of the application process, including the necessary documentation and fees. If you have a skill set or experience that you can apply in an American workplace and have found an employer motivated to bring you on, then you’ve already conquered the toughest part of the process.