The coming year is bringing significant changes to the H1-B visa program, including increased fees, changes to the lottery, registration rules, updates on how the program interacts with DACA, and adjustments to work permits for H-4 spouses of H1-B workers. These are significant changes with implications for both employees and the companies that bring them into work.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) proposed a new schedule that proposes a 22 percent fee raise for H1-B visas. Furthermore, USCIS is proposing that firms with at least 50 US-based workers and whose workforce is 50 percent or more of their workforce on L-1 intracompany transfers or H1-B visas pay an extra $4,000 each time they seek to extend a workers’ visa. These new fees are particularly acute for information and technology companies, which often can only get H1-B approvals for a few months at a time, which requires multiple extensions in a single year.
Finally, USCIS is proposing to increase the fees for H-2A and H-2B guest-workers while limiting the number of workers who can be listed on each application, which would increase the cost to agricultural companies by hundreds of thousands of dollars a season.
USCIS now requires firms to preregister, which allows them to enter the lottery for 85,000 visas without having to prepare full petitions and supporting documents. However, some experts critique the changes as empowering larger companies who can submit a large number of preregistration petitions. Essentially, the program is favoring anonymous filers over those who might stand out on their application.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to release its ruling on whether the Trump Administration illegally ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (“DACA”) program in June. Based on oral arguments, it is anticipated that the Court will back the Administration and end the program, which would result in 30,000 DACA-workers losing their jobs every month for the next few years.
H-4 Visa Changes
H-4 Visas allow spouses of H1-B visa holders to work. There are two potential changes to this program: (1) a proposal by the Administration to rescind the program and (2) a lawsuit against the program brought by US-born tech workers, which got a ruling at the appeals court finding the program increase competition for U.S. workers. It is possible that this work authorization program could end by the end of this year.