Update: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it would extend the public comment period by an additional 5 business days until March 13, 2023.
Boundless submitted a public comment to USCIS earlier this week urging the government to reconsider significantly raising immigration fees.
Here are the key takeaways:
The fee increase will affect families and low-income immigrants
The most troubling impact of the proposed fee hike is that it could shut out lower-income immigrants from entering the U.S. and keep families apart.
A marriage green card applicant filing from within the United States could pay more than double in fees, from $1,760 to $3,640. When we look at this recommendation in more detail it becomes even more troubling: USCIS has removed the fee exemption for immigrant families applying for work authorization and permission to travel while their application is processing. As USCIS processing times have continued to steadily increase, the ability for these family members to work and travel in the interim is more critical than ever, yet the agency proposes to exact a significant financial cost for these authorizations for the first time.
Employers will pay more than triple in hiring costs
American businesses will pay far more to hire foreign workers if the new proposal goes into effect. Most notably, the cost of an H-1B work visa – used by big tech companies as well as universities, nonprofits, and smaller businesses – will increase by 70%, from $460 to $780. The pre-registration fee for the H-1B is also set to rise dramatically, from $10 to $215 – an eye-watering 2,050% increase. On top of that, USCIS is also asking companies to shoulder the costs of asylum fees by tacking on an additional $600 to each H-1B application. That brings the total cost of an H-1B visa to $1,595, more than triple the current cost.
America needs immigrants to solve the labor crisis
USCIS should not be leaning so heavily on American companies to fund its operations while the country grapples with a severe labor shortage.
As of November, 2022, there were close to 10.5 million job openings in America, and 5.8 million people were out of work. Even if every one of those unemployed workers was hired, the U.S. would still be short millions of people to fill available jobs.
Making it easier for immigrant workers to come to the U.S. and fill some of these open positions would “ease labor shortages, slow down inflation and help build a bigger, stronger economy for all.”
While USCIS has done a laudable job in recent years facilitating and increasing access to citizenship and naturalization processing, they appear to be out of touch about the journey it takes to get to that point. Asking for ever increasing fees for basic immigration processing will separate families, starve the U.S. of talented professionals, and do little to improve systemic issues within the U.S. agencies that process these applications. Until USCIS gets its house in order, they should not be asking immigrants to shoulder the burden of their broken system.
You can view the full comment here.