H1B USCIS Filing fees – How are they being used?

Published on    30 June 2014     Hits: 772

The most commonly used H-1B work visa is notorious for many reasons. The quota for H-1B was exhausted on June 11th, merely two months and 11 days after the quota had opened. Thus, those in need of a work visa will have to wait till April 2013. USCIS filing fees for H-1B are also one of the highest in number and type. What are these fees for? Upon close examination, we can learn what America’s Immigration policy is about.

First, the basic filing fee for all visa applicants is $325. In addition, for H-1B and L-1 visas, there is an Anti-Fraud fee of $500. For H-1B visas only, there is a Training fee of $1,500 for companies with more than 25 full-time employees and $750 for 25 or fewer full-time employees.

According to USCIS statistics, from years 2000-2011, the federal government amassed $2.3 billion from H-1B training fee and $700 million from the Anti-fraud fee.

How are these fees that are part of visa application being used? By regulation, the breakdown is as follows: 50% of the $200 million collected every year for Training Fee is used to train the American workforce by the Department of Labor; 30% is used by the National Science Foundation for students majoring in science and mathematics; 10% is used by the National Science Foundation’s K-12 science and math program; 5% is used by USCIS for the filing process and 5% is used by Department of Labor for the application review and audit.

The Anti-fraud fee that amounts to approximately $700 million is being used for auditing purposes.

Collection of the Training Fee that only applies to H-1B began in 1998 and was $500. In seeking to pass a bill that increased the H-1B quota at that time, Congress compromised by agreeing to collect funds for training Americans and scholarships from the visa applicants.

Since then, the visa quota has not increased but the fee has approached $1,500 for no reason. Even while expending these funds obtained from H-1B employers, nowhere are these employers credited for their contributions.

Government scholarships to promote science and mathematics and programs for training have good purposes. But two things remain unclear. First, the relationship between these programs and H-1B, and second, do the recipients of these scholarships and training know of whom they are the beneficiaries?

There is a so-called “sin tax.” It is an additional tax on conduct (such as alcohol, cigarette, gambling) that is a burden on society. The notion that employers applying for H-1B visa should be responsible for federal government scholarship and American workforce training program funding suggests that some members of Congress erroneously think immigration as a burden to society, not as a policy that is needed.

In addition, there is widespread perception that the H-1B visa is a loophole for cheap foreign laborers, to take away American jobs. I wonder how many people know that H-1B visa applicants are the ones that support programs that actually increase American competitiveness. Whose precious tax money is the Department of Labor and National Science Foundation, hence the federal government, trying to take credit for?

These are disturbing facts but by learning these facts and more, I hope that the immigrant society can autonomously evaluate and opine about U.S immigration policies.

Mario Guevara-Martinez