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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Wednesday, April 03, 2024

U.S. immigration, visa fees increase to address application backlog

WASHINGTON — For the first time in seven years, the cost to apply for work visas and residency in the U.S. is going up. Federal officials say the current fees can’t keep up with the workload and they hope the new revenue will help them chip away at the backlog of applications. What You Need To Know To address the immigration backlog, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is making significant changes to application fees for the first time in more than seven years The application for an H-1B visa is increasing from $460 to $780 — a 70% increase Some applications for certain petitioners, such as small businesses and nonprofits, will have fees reduced under humanitarian-related categories One global corporate immigration firm says in the next few years the costs will affect recruiting and hiring decisions Dallas immigration attorney Robert Armstrong told Spectrum News some of his clients are waiting longer and longer for a green card. “Instead of waiting, the typical, three, six, nine months for your process to be finished, people were waiting up to two years, and so that's the kind of delay that we see across the board,” Armstrong said. The delays have gotten worse since the pandemic. To address the problem, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency within the Department of Homeland Security that handles legal immigration, is making significant changes to application fees for the first time in more than seven years. This week, application fees went up for employee- and family-based immigration. “USCIS is updating our fees to better meet the needs of our agency, enabling us to provide more timely decisions to those we serve,” said USCIS Director Ur Mendoza Jaddou. “Despite years of inadequate funding, the USCIS workforce has made great strides in customer service, backlog reduction, implementing new processes and programs, and upholding fairness, integrity and respect for all we serve.” Unlike most federal agencies, USCIS is funded primarily by fees. “They get very little money from Congress, so the only way that the agency can support both their current and anticipated workload is by raising fees, so it did not come as a surprise that there would be an increase,” said Lynden Melmed, a partner at BAL, a global corporate immigration firm. The agency also pointed out that some applications for certain petitioners, such as small businesses and nonprofits, will have fees reduced under humanitarian-related categories. One of the most popular applications is for an H-1B visa, which allows companies to temporarily employ highly skilled foreign workers. The application is increasing from $460 to $780 — a 70% increase. “In the next few years, it’s very easy to see how the total amount that companies are paying for their immigration system is going to factor into their recruiting and hiring decision,” Melmed said. Melmed said he finds people he speaks to are often surprised to learn that while big tech companies rely on highly skilled immigrants, increasingly other industries do too — from the semiconductor industry to car manufacturers. He said businesses will be paying close attention to how the federal agency handles the new funding from the fee hikes. “When you start to talk about building new facilities in Texas and you talk about the ability to attract outside investment to states, a key part of that is, can you get the workers there and can you get them there on time?” Melmed said. “The ability of the agency to meet those expectations and deliver on that service is something that would affect all Texans, and really all Americans.” The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the number of foreign-born workers in the U.S. has steadily grown over the past 18 years to 18.6% of the civilian labor force. Some economists said foreign-born workers have relieved pressure from the job market, as well as inflation. “When we think about immigration, well, what kind of immigration impacts the economy? And the most obvious way that people can agree is positive. And I think it's the lawful, it's the employment, it's family based, right, and that's where the fees are hitting,” Armstrong said. “We're hoping that it gives (USCIS) the capacity to continue functioning and hopefully become a little more efficient." Some immigration attorneys and businesses that rely on immigrant labor are hoping the increases will help the agency reduce the notorious backlog of immigration-related applications. For more information, visit us at https://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/.

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