USCIS Fee Hike Blocked By Court (Oct 2 – Visa Bulletin Affected?)

USCIS increasing premium processing time from 15 calendar days to business days (exclude weekends, holidays). H1B, L work visa fees increase. Site visit fees added.

Anil Gupta
  By Anil Gupta    Updated  29 Sep, 20


Update Sep 29, 2020: Law360 reports that a California judge has blocked the Oct 2 USCIS fee hike as part of the lawsuit.

Will the EB3 India Visa bulletin be taken back after the court blocked Fee Hike?

Many people have asked this question based on the assumption that USCIS moved the EB3 India date of filing by 5 years just to solve their money problems.

There is no such report that we know of and there is no news about USCIS abandoning or taking back the Employment-based ‘Date of Filing’ chart either at this moment.

If there is anything that comes up, we will share here.

Is it possible to take back or close the ‘Date of Filing’ Chart before Oct 1 or between now and Oct 31?

Yes, it is possible that USCIS closes the ‘Date of filing’ anytime.

USCIS has done it in past (in 2015 when the DOF chart was launched) too.

We do not know if they will do it now or not unless they announce it but its certainly possible.

As per some reports, it seems USCIS cannot change the visa bulletin rules if the bulletin has already started. In this case, we are not sure if they can or cannot close the DOF chart between Oct 1 to Oct 31. Only USCIS knows.

Fee Increase – Oct 2, 2020

USCIS will also divide the current form I-129 to different forms based on the type of visa application.

Example:

Form I-129 for H1B visa will now be named I-129H1, I-129L for L visa, I-129O for O visa, and so on.

The current fees for I-129 is $460 which is scheduled to increase:

I-129CWCNMI-Only Transitional Worker$695
I-129E&TNE (Australia) or TN (Canada, Mexico)$695
I-129H1H-1B$555
I-129H2AH-2A $850 (named); $415 (unnamed)
I-129H2BH-2B $715 (named); $385 (unnamed)
I-129LL Visa$805
I-129MISCH-3, P, Q, or R$695
I-129OO Visa$705
  • The new form for L visa, I-129L, will further sub-divide the L1A manager and L1A executives. The fees will remain the same for both managers and executives.
  • Max limit of 25 names workers on Form I-129H2A, I-129H2B, and I-129O.

DHS has proposed to increase the USCIS application fees by an average of 21%.

Current FeesNew fees
I-130 – Sponsor GC for Relative$535$550 (Online)
$560 (Paper)
I-131 – Advance Parole$575$590
I-140 – Immigrant Petition$700$555
I-485 – Green Card AOS – Adult$1130 (with EAD, AP)$1120 (without EAD, AP)
I-485 – Green Card AOS – Child (<14)$750$1130
I-526 – EB5 Investment Green Card$3675$4010
I-539 – Extend/Change Non immigrant Status (H4, L2, F2)$370$390
I-765 – Employment Permit – H4 EAD, L2 EAD etc$410$550
N-400 – US citizenship – Naturalization$640$1160 (Online)
1170 (Paper)
Biometric Services Fees (for I485, I131, I-539)$85$30

Returned Check Fee, Credit Card Fee Non Refundable

DHS has clarified that they will stop charging returned check fee of $30.

USCIS also confirms that all fees are non-refundable including the one paid using a credit card. USCIS says that people file refund claims with their credit card company if their case gets denied and they have lost a number of such claims.

The credit card company has sided with the customer in many cases as there was no clear mention of word ‘non-refundable’ by USCIS.

Social Media Screenings, Security Checks Fee

USCIS says that they need extra fees due to increased steps in application processing including ‘Social media screenings’ and ‘National security Checks’ before approving applications.

It is a known fact that a 15-day premium processing timeline is not honored if your application is waiting for a security check.

Premium Processing Time Change from 15 Calendar to 15 Working Days

Earlier, DHS and USCIS finalized the rule to change premium processing time from 15 calendar days to 15 working days.

The change will be implemented starting Oct 2, 2020.

The change:

  • New: 15 business days (excludes weekend + holidays)
  • Current: 15 calendar days (includes Saturday, Sunday).

This will substantially increase the processing time even when you pay an extra $1400+ to USCIS for doing the same job faster than they are supposed to do in regular processing.

Premium processing time will now be about 18 to 20+ days instead of 15 as business days are counted excluding:

  • Weekends (Saturday, Sunday)
  • Federal Government Holidays
  • Weather-related closures (national or local office working on your application)
  • National emergency office closures like COVID-19.

So, a certain level of ‘uncertainty’ is now being added to the premium processing timeline. Keep guessing the holidays and counting days!

Online Form Filling

USCIS encourages online filing and electronic processing of applications.

They expect to provide near-real-time processing updates on the case status for each stage of processing.

Example: Form i539 can be filed online for many applications including H4 extension.

US Home Address Mandatory

DHS’s new rule makes it mandatory to provide a valid domestic address (US address) for any new Form I129 (H1B extension, transfer, amendment) that’s filed for a named worker, who is present in the United States when submitting the form.

USCIS - provide domestic address for H1B extension
USCIS – provide domestic address for H1B extension

This is another level of check that has been added to verify H1B and L work locations in addition to USCIS physical site visits.

Is USCIS going to start verifying the current work location before any extension, amendment or transfer can be approved?

H4 EAD Premium Processing Bill

A new bill has passed the House to increase the premium processing fees by a whopping $1,000.

This bill is currently pending in Senate.

  1. Current Premium fees to increase from $1440 to $2500.
  2. H-2B, Religious workers (R Visa) premium fees to be $1500.

It also allows multiple application types that were not eligible for premium processing earlier to be allowed now:

  1. Employment-based non-immigrant petitions not already subject to premium processing will be included. H-1B is currently eligible for premium services.
  2. Green card petitions (EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3) not already subject to premium processing will be eligible for filing in premium. Example: i140 for EB-1C Multinational executives and managers will be allowed to use expedited processing.
  3. Applications to change or extend nonimmigrant status (i-539) for H4, L2 will be allowed to pay and get approvals faster. Other applications could be H4 to F1, H1B to H4, H4 to L2, and then L2 EAD or vice versa.
  4. Applications for H4 EAD, L2 EAD, and others will be allowed to use premium instead of expediting requests which are at the discretion of USCIS officer.
Will H4, L2 Biometric be processed in Premium Timeline?

The bill does not have any clause to expedite or process biometric also in premium.

But, if premium service will be made available for H4 and L2 extensions too, then we believe that fast biometric should also be provided.

For people who are currently waiting for their biometric appointment, they may be able to upgrade their application to premium. We will share the updated guidelines as USCIS makes changes once this bill becomes a law.

Can PERM be filed in premium?

PERM will not be eligible for the premium service.

PERM is approved by DOL (department of labor) and is a different organization than USCIS.

Source: house.gov Emergency USCIS Stabilization Bill

Source: USCIS Final Rule




Author

Anil Gupta
  By Anil Gupta           

Recent discussion on forum

  1. keto12
    keto12

    What’s the point in increasing fees for H4EAD when they don’t even process the cases for months? I mean…seriously?!


  2. anonymous
    anonymous

    So if we file H1, H4 and EAD at the same time a single payment of 2500 will be enough or should we pay 2500 for each application that is 7500?


  3. anil_am22
    anil_am22

    The exact rules are not clear yet as this is a congress bill. Once it becomes a law and then USCIS publishes the detailed rules, we would have more information about how multiple related applications will be handled and how the fee distribution would be.

    At this time, it does seem to me that they may require separate premium processing fee for each type of application i.e. 2,500 separately for H1B, H4 and H4 EAD.

    But, it may change or be different for H1B + H4 + H4 EAD combination. I will share as and when the concrete information is available.


  4. anonymous60
    anonymous60

    What are the implications of this new bill for H1Bs who’ve been laid off ?

    • They can apply for H4 Change of status in premium. No longer have to wait for 8-10 month approval.

    Any other implications?


  5. anil_am22
    anil_am22

    H4, L2 EAD expedite Request Not Required

    Well, the H4 EAD and L2 EAD will get the most benefit as they would not be required to file an expedite request.

    They can simply file premium upgrades and avoid the USCIS discretion of expediting based on strict reasons.

    L2 EAD to H4 EAD

    Many people change from L2 to H4 and want to avoid work breaks and this should help them too.

    H1B to H4 and then Back to H1B after lay off

    The H1B 60 day lay off grace period and then changing over to H4 and coming back to H1B will certainly see a huge bump.


  6. anonymous
    anonymous

    It would be interesting to see how premium processing can be done with biometric requirement for H4 or concurrent filing of H1-B and/or H4 and H4-EAD.


  7. anonymous
    anonymous

    If we pay $7500 in immigration cost for premium is this can be filed under tax filing as expenses? Is this allowed ?

    As the premium is not mandatory cost to be borne by employer.


  8. anil_am22
    anil_am22

    I don’t think premium processing fee is tax deductible.


  9. ravich
    ravich

    Hi Anil, What are the chances of bill getting approved in senate.


  10. Aneesha
    Aneesha

    Hi Anil,
    Do we know if this bill has passed?Has premium processing been extended to H4/H4 EAD as well?


  11. anil_am22
    anil_am22

    The bill has not passed yet. There is no premium processing for H4 EAD as of today.


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