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H1B Visa Processing Fees and Costs

What Fees and Costs Come with the H1B Visa? 

The total cost of the H1B is in the thousands of dollars. Most if not all of this cost is generally paid by the employer, not the employee or potential employee (applicant). The application process for the H1B visa has several steps that involve costs for both the employer and the applicant. This article discusses costs associated with the H1B visa. 

Registration Costs 

In order to receive an H1B visa, the employer must register for the H1B visa lottery. There is no guarantee that a registrant will be selected in the lottery; however, it costs only $10 to register, and this is all that must be paid if the potential employee is not selected in the lottery. The $10 registration fee is non-refundable and must be submitted for each applicant. The employer is responsible for paying the registration fee.

Optional Premium Processing Fee 

Premium processing speeds up the time it takes the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) to come to its decision regarding an applicant’s petition. This is an optional $2,500 fee charged to those who wish to expedite the H1B visa process. It may be paid by either the employee or the employer. Payment of this fee and completion of form I-907 guarantees a 15-day processing time.

It is important to note that there is a limited benefit to premium processing with the H1B visa. Premium processing does not improve an applicant’s chances of being selected in the H1B lottery. Moreover, while premium processing is intended to expedite the processing of Form I-129 to a 15-day timeframe, it will not necessarily allow the H1B applicant to begin working any sooner than if they did not choose premium processing. This is because applicants cannot begin working until October 1st, 2022 or later. Thus, even if an applicant elected to have their Form I-129 petition processed in 15 days using premium processing, the applicant will still need to wait until at least October 1st, 2022 or later to begin work. 

There are some situations where premium processing may be useful to an applicant. For example, if the petitioner is issued a Request for Evidence (RFP) by the USCIS, this will undoubtedly prolong the petition’s approval. The petitioner can select premium processing in order to reduce the delay caused by the RFP. 

Basic Filing Fee for Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker

Any time the Form I-129 is filed, it must be accompanied with a $460 filing fee. The employer or potential employer must complete a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker after the applicant is selected in the lottery. The $460 fee must also be paid for H1B transfer costs, refiling, amendments, and renewals. The employer is responsible for paying the filing fee. 

American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act Training Fee

Employers with 1-25 full time employees must pay $750 under this act, while employers with 26 or more full time employees must pay $1,500. Nonprofits affiliated with educational institutions, government research organizations, and primary or secondary educational institutions are exempt from this fee. 

Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee

New H1B applicants or those changing to a new employer are charged $500 so that the USCIS can better detect fraudulent use of the H1B visa. This fee is not charged if an employee is extending his or her work with the same sponsoring employer. 

Public Law 114-113 Fee 

This is a $4,000 fee charged to companies that employ more than 50 workers where over half of the employees are on H1B or L1 status. The USCIS may exempt this fee. 

Attorney Fees 

Many employers choose to hire an attorney to help them through the registration and application process. Of course, the cost of hiring an attorney can vary depending on the attorney or the firm as well as how much of the application process the attorney is hired to assist with. It is common that an attorney will charge in the thousands of dollars to assist with the entire H1B process, sometimes up to around $5,000. Many attorneys offer free consultations that allow them to review the specific needs of the employer’s case so that they can provide you with a quote for the cost of assistance throughout the H1B process, or just a part of it. Consultations are also a great opportunity for an employer to determine if the attorney is someone they would like to work with. 

Labor Condition Application (LCA) 

Even though the Labor Condition Application (LCA) is a required part of the H1B application process, there is fortunately no fee associated with filing the LCA with the Department of Labor. Of course, if the employer decides to hire an attorney to help with the LCA, there will be a cost associated with the attorney’s help with the LCA. 

H1B Employee Salary and Benefits

Because the H1B visa is available to individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in a specialty occupation, the salaries and benefits for H1B eligible jobs can be quite competitive. This is certainly a cost that the employer must pay when hiring an H1B visa holder, but it shouldn’t differ from the salary and benefits offered to similarly employed U.S. workers. Some common employment benefits include health, life, disability, and other insurance plans; retirement and savings plans; cash bonuses; and stock options. The H1B worker’s employer must offer the H1B worker benefits on the same basis, and in accordance with the same criteria, as the benefits the employer provides to similarly employed U.S. workers.

File Form DS-160

There is no cost associated with filing Form DS-160 itself. Form DS-160 is used as part of the application process for temporary, or nonimmigrant, U.S visas like the H1B visa. Also known as the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, the DS-160 requires applicants to provide information about themselves and their families, if applicable, as well as other important information, such as passport numbers and a photograph of the applicant(s).

Prepare for U.S. Consulate or Embassy Interview

H1B visa applicants who are outside of the United States at the time they apply will have to attend an interview at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy nearest to them. Some applicants may have to travel a long distance for the interview, so there may be expensive travel and lodging costs associated with attending the interview.

Moreover, applicants are required to bring documentation with them to the interview. Some of the documentation should be readily available to the applicant because it was submitted with Form I-129, but other documentation may need to be retrieved by the applicant prior to the interview. Depending on the documentation and its location, there may be significant costs with obtaining the documentation required for the interview. 

At the interview, the applicant must have certain documents with them, including:

  • valid passport
  • a printed copy of the confirmation page from your completion of Form DS-160
  • a copy of your approved form I-129 and I-797 approval (issued to you previously when your form I-129 application was approved) 
  • receipts proving you paid your application fees and a passport-sized photo of you that conforms with U.S. Department of State guidelines;
  • Degree and certification documents; 
  • Resume and curriculum vitae (CV)

Travel and Living Costs

If an H1B applicant is approved for the H1B visa while outside of the United States, there will be travel costs associated with coming to the United States to get settled before the work start date and then begin working. Of course, there are other costs associated with finding housing and ground transportation in the United States. Some employers are willing and able to offer H1B employees help with finding housing and transportation in the United States. 

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Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

Sweta has been recognized as a ” Super Lawyer, Rising Star,” and as amongst the ” Top 40 under 40″ immigration attorneys in California (American Society of Legal Advocates). She is also the recipient of the Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Sweta is also a chartered accountant — the equivalent of a CPA. This makes her uniquely positioned to understand the immigration needs of her business clients in the broader context of their corporate objectives.

Sweta is actively involved with immigration issues and immigrant communities in various capacities. She has assumed key roles at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), both at the local and national level. She has been a past chair at the Santa Clara Valley Chapter at AILA and has also been involved in various practice area committees at AILA National. Sweta has addressed multiple conferences/forums in the United States and worldwide on immigration and business issues.

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