Government proposes sharp fee hike for hundreds of extensions of Silicon Valley's hottest visa

Federal authorities plan to dramatically increase the fees for hundreds of H-1B visa extension applications. The fee will probably be raised to $4,000 to cover all extension applications from firms that employ numerous people on the visa.

The H-1B visa is a piece permit for foreign employees with special skills and is widely utilized by Silicon Valley technology firms. However, the questionable use of the visa has sparked controversy.

According to the proposal published by the US Department of Homeland Security on Thursday, renewals that involve a change in job title or a major change in duties may even be subject to the fee in the longer term.

The change would affect firms with a minimum of 50 employees, greater than half of whom hold H-1B visas or the related but less common L-1 visa for executives and managers.

Currently, the fee for such firms applies to latest H-1B petitions and H-1B extension petitions that involve a change of employer.

The so-called “biometric fee” of $4,000 has been imposed since 2015 to fund an automatic system that uses facial images to trace non-Americans entering and leaving the United States. In its fee proposal, the Department of Homeland Security said that without the rise, it could not give you the option to “maintain its current biometric entry processes or continue to implement other important entry and exit programs.”

The agency estimates that the brand new fee will affect about 22,000 renewal applications per 12 months. It could affect relatively small employers in “a wide range” of industries, including software publishing, data processing, computer systems design and engineering, the Department of Homeland Security said.

The agency will accept public comments until July 8 to review before issuing a final rule.

Companies apply for the H-1B visa by submitting provisional applications which can be entered right into a lottery that awards a maximum of 85,000 latest visas annually. In the Bay Area, essentially the most recent count found that almost 60,000 foreign residents were allowed to work for firms within the region on the H-1B visa in 2019, in line with the Bay Area Council.

Companies use the H-1B visa to draw top foreign talent and hire lower-cost IT employees. Critics point to abuses, including replacing U.S. employees with visa holders, while the tech industry is lobbying to boost the annual cap of 85,000.

Earlier this 12 months, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services increased the fee for preliminary H-1B applications, often called “registrations,” from $10 to $250, starting next 12 months. The agency also increased the fee for applications chosen in a lottery from $460 to $780, starting this 12 months.

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