h-1b visa
How will this US immigration news affect international students in the US? Source: Robyn Beck/AFP

Looking for the latest US immigration news? According to reports, H-1B visa filing fees could increase if the US passes the proposed Budget Reconciliation Bill in its current form, reported The Economic Times. The H-1B visa is a highly coveted work visa for many international graduates in the US. It allows employers or companies in the US to hire international graduates with a specific speciality (or its equivalent) to work in the country. 

The H-1B visa holder can only work for the sponsoring employer and enables international graduates to work in the US for three years at least. Many international students who study in the US hope to be hired on an H-1B visa to work and start a life in the country.

The Bill proposed to include a supplementary US$500 charge for each H-1B visa petition, as well as additional fees for several immigration-related petitions. These include US$800 for employer-sponsored permanent residency and US$250 for an F-1 or student visa, to be paid by the educational institute, said the report.

Currently, companies pay US$460 for the basic application, with additional lawyer, anti-fraud, and scholarship fees. The Bill also proposes another supplementary US$500 charge for employment authorisation forms for spouses of certain non-immigrants, students seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) and applicants for adjustment of status.

The Bill proposed to include a supplementary US$500 charge. Source: Frederick J. Brown/AFP

US immigration news: H-1B visa fees and its implications

The American Immigration Council said research shows H-1B workers fill employment gaps in many STEM occupations. Nearly two-thirds of requests for H-1B visa workers are for STEM occupations, but there is also high demand for workers in healthcare, business, finance and life sciences industries. From FY 2010 to FY 2016, the largest numbers of H-1B recipients were in the New York City metropolitan area, followed by Dallas, Washington, DC and Boston.

Tech companies are among the US companies that sponsor the most H-1B visas. According to reports, among the companies that consistently sponsor the visa include Intel, Amazon, Google and Microsoft, to name a few.

Rajiv S. Khanna, managing attorney at immigration.com, told The Economic Times that small businesses would be impacted more by this change. 

“It can cost as much as US$30,000 in attorney fees, filing fees and responding to requests for evidence each time you file an H-1B or an extension. With over a million jobs vacant in the computer technology industry alone, it is unconscionable that instead of making it easier, Congress is making it more difficult,” he said.

There is an additional US$4,000 fee for employers that have a large proportion of H-1B and L-1 visa holders, and a US$2,500 for premium processing of the petition, which most companies opt for.

In Forbes, Stuart Anderson said some members of Congress sympathetic to refugees and individuals without legal status imply that it is a gift to business to allow companies to hire high-skilled foreign nationals and sponsor them for permanent residence.

“In reality, coming to America as an international student and gaining H-1B status, or being hired directly on an H-1B visa, is just another way to pursue the American Dream,” he said. “For many, it is a necessary step under the US immigration system for an opportunity to stay permanently and start a career and family in America. A new House bill will make it more expensive for employers to file petitions for those pursuing those dreams.”

He added, “Hiring an H-1B visa holder will become more expensive if the House Reconciliation Bill becomes law. Employers will pay the additional fee since an H-1B visa is typically the only practical way to hire a high-skilled foreign national, including an international student, to work long-term in America.”