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Navigating the Costs of Hiring Foreign Workers

Oct 20, 2023

An HR person calculates immigration costs

Hiring foreign workers for your organization can be costly, with the average cost-per-hire exceeding $4,000, according to a report by the Society for Human Resource Management. When considering foreign nationals for your workforce who require immigration sponsorship, the costs can escalate, and questions often arise about who should bear these expenses. Read on to learn about the intricacies of immigration costs when hiring foreign workers, both for temporary visas and for immigrant visas.

Visa Fees

Nonimmigrant Petitions

  1. Legal Fees: The process begins with legal fees. Immigration attorneys are instrumental in navigating the complexities of nonimmigrant visa petitions. Companies can expect to pay between $2,000 and $5,000 per petition, depending on the case’s complexity.
  2. Filing Fees: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) charges filing fees for nonimmigrant visa petitions. For the H-1B visa, the standard filing fee is approximately $780, with an additional $500 fraud prevention fee. Companies with a certain number of H-1B workers may also face extra fees ranging from $4,000 to $4,500.
  3. Premium Processing: To expedite processing, companies can opt for premium processing at a cost of $2805. This ensures a quicker response from USCIS but does not guarantee visa approval.
  4. ACWIA Fee: Employers with H-1B workers must pay the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act (ACWIA) fee, which varies based on the company’s size and circumstances. This fee can range from $750 to $1,500.
  5. Visa Renewal Costs: Visa extensions entail additional legal and filing fees.

Immigrant Petitions

  1. Legal Fees: Immigrant petitions in the EB categories require extensive legal assistance. Companies may incur legal fees ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 or more, depending on the case’s complexity.
  2. Labor Certification: The PERM labor certification process can lead to additional costs, including advertising and recruitment expenses, totaling up to $3,000.
  3. I-140 Filing Fee: The Form I-140 (“Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker”) filing fee is $715.
  4. I-485 Adjustment of Status Fee: For employees already in the U.S., the I-485 (“Application for Adjustment of Status”) costs $1440, which includes the biometrics fee.
  5. Consular Processing Costs: If the foreign worker is abroad, consular processing adds further fees, such as the DS-260 application fee and medical examination expenses.
  6. Premium Processing: Some companies opt for premium processing for I-140 petitions, costing an additional $2805. This expedites processing but does not guarantee approval.

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Navigating Payment Responsibility

The responsibility for covering these costs depends on various factors, including the specific visa category, whether it’s an initial or renewal application, and whether expedited processing is requested. Certain fees and expenses, such as the ACWIA fee, are required to be paid by the employer and cannot be negotiated with the employee.

While some fees may be shared between employer and employee, employers must be cautious about reducing an employee’s pay below the required prevailing wage, which could have unintended consequences.

Nonimmigrant (Temporary) Petitions

  • Form I-129 (“Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker”) carries a $780 base filing fee, which can be paid by either the employer or the beneficiary.
  • Premium processing fees and attorney fees are also negotiable.
  • The Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee ($500 or $150 for H-2B) and the ACWIA fee ($750 or $1,500) must be fully covered by the employer.

Immigrant (Permanent) Petitions

  • Employers must bear all costs related to the submission of the PERM labor certification.
  • The I-140 and I-485 fees can be shared between the employer and employee without penalties.
  • Visa application fees for consular processing can be paid by either party.

The Bottom Line

Hiring foreign workers can significantly enrich your organization, but understanding and budgeting for the associated costs is essential. Employers should carefully navigate payment responsibilities and ensure they meet legal requirements. By collaborating with experienced immigration attorneys, businesses can attract top international talent while maintaining compliance with U.S. immigration laws. While the costs may seem substantial, they are a fraction of the value that talented foreign workers can bring to your organization.