Lawsuit challenging US non-immigration visa fee hike filed in US district court

“USCIS’ dramatic fee increases will immediately devastate vulnerable populations and our organizational plaintiffs who serve them. The planned fee hikes and unprecedented fee to apply for asylum, including an 83% increase for naturalization applic...

Agencies
Filing fees for H-1B high-skill visas will increase 21% to $555, while those for L (intra-company transfer) visas will increase by 75% to $850.
PUNE: A lawsuit challenging the hike in the US non-immigration visa fees was filed in a US district court on Friday. The American Immigration Lawyers Association has partnered with the law firm of Sidley Austin on behalf of a coalition of the country’s leading immigrants’ rights associations to file the lawsuit against Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Chad Wolf, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and Kenneth Cuccinelli. It seeks an emergency nationwide injunction of the rule to prevent it from going into effect on October 2, 2020.

“USCIS’ dramatic fee increases will immediately devastate vulnerable populations and our organizational plaintiffs who serve them. The planned fee hikes and unprecedented fee to apply for asylum, including an 83% increase for naturalization applications, place an unlawful barrier in the way of individuals eligible for immigration benefits. These wealth tests belong in the dustbin of history,” said Jesse Bless, AILA’s Director of Litigation.

DHS justified the rule based on what it claims are skyrocketing costs and a budgetary shortfall. But during the notice and comment period, many criticized the Fee Rule for failing to explain how USCIS calculates its costs and burned through the ample cash reserves it had on hand just a few years ago, said the complaint.


Filing fees for H-1B high-skill visas will increase 21% to $555, while those for L (intra-company transfer) visas will increase by 75% to $850. In what would significantly impact Indian services firms, companies with at over 50 employees, where 50% or more are on an H-1B or L-1 visa, will pay an additional $4,000 or $4,500 for each visa extension. The H-1B visa is normally issued for a period of three years, following which it can be extended twice. Industry associations like NASSCOM had filed their comments with the DHS protesting this additional charge, calling it illegal.

The fee increase comes at a time when the USCIS is facing a funds shortage. The agency has said that it would have to furlough about 70% of its employees by the end of August if the US Congress doesn’t provide the $1.2 billion in emergency funding it has requested. If this were to happen, the immigration process would come to a standstill with the agency being unable to process applications.

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