US immigration fees to increase under Trump administration

Comments by Sanwar Ali:

Donald Trump is trailing in the polls well behind Biden the Democratic Presidential candidate.  On Monday Trump signed another Executive Order that will increase scrutiny of H1B visa applications.   H1B visas are very popular with Indian owned IT companies in the US.  In reality much of the time the only suitable visa is the H1B visa or L1 visa.  The Executive Order together with the increase in US work visa fees from 2 October 2020 will disproportionately affect Indian owned IT companies.

The new 3rd August 2020 Trump Executive order is supposedly to prevent H1B workers replacing American workers on federal contracts.  In particular, Trump was apparently unhappy with the Tennessee Valley Authority or TVA, which had planned to outsource some of its technology related work to companies with foreign workers.  On Monday Trump also fired TVA chairman Skip Thompson whom Trump had actually appointed to the job in the first place and someone else on the TVA board.

There have been concerns about high levels of unemployment in the US due to coronavirus COVID-19.  The surge in cases in many States may mean another lockdown, leading to more economic difficulties for the US.  Politically Trump may see attacking US work visa programs as being a vote winner. 

It is uncertain whether the increase in US visa fees has anything to do with the coronavirus pandemic.  Apparently, the fee increase would have happened anyway.  If you wish to avoid the US visa fee increases you should apply before 2 October 2020.  The US work visa ban primarily affects visa processing from outside the US.  You can still in many cases submit US visa petitions to USCIS Service Centers in the US.

US immigration fees across multiple categories are set to see a huge increase. The Trump administration announced a new fee structure on July 31, including charges for asylum applications for the first time ever and an 80% rise in US naturalization services.

The new fees, unveiled by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), will come into effect on October 2. Online naturalization application costs will rise from $640 to $1,160, while asylum applicants will be charged a $50 fee.

USCIS, whose offices had been closed and most services suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic, has faced huge financial difficulties. The agency recently postponed putting some 13,400 workers on furlough as it awaits a decision from Congress on a $1.2 billion loan to ease its financial woes.

Claims overdue visa fee increases

In a statement to the press, USCIS deputy director for policy, Joseph Edlow said: “USCIS is required to examine incoming and outgoing expenditures and make adjustments based on that analysis.”

“These overdue adjustments in fees are necessary to efficiently and fairly administer our nation’s lawful immigration system, secure the homeland and protect Americans,” Edlow added.

According to USCIS, the new fee structure will help the agency meet payroll, improve technology and operations that will help to ‘accomplish its mission.’

The US becomes the latest country to charge asylum-seekers an application fee after Australia, Fiji and Iran. Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, a Washington nonprofit that advocates for immigrants, blasted the Trump administration’s asylum fee as they’re already charged for an initial work permit.

Reichlin-Melnick took to Twitter, saying: “DHS eliminate a fee waiver category for people who could demonstrate “financial hardship.” A commenter pointed out that DHS didn't explain why it was going to do that at all. DHS’s response? Tough.”

“The USCIS fee rule continues the Trump administration’s attacks on asylum seekers:

- First-ever fee ($50) for asylum.

- For the first time, requires asylum seekers to pay to apply for an initial work permit, even though they’re not allowed to work before then—at the cost of $550,” Reichlin-Melnick added.

DACA renewal fee withdrawn

Just prior to the announcement of the new fee structure, USCIS withdrew a proposed renewal fee of $275 and withdrew a huge increase in work authorisation fees for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. US immigration fees have seen huge increases in recent decades. In the 1990s, fees to apply for US citizenship were under $100.

With USCIS in financial turmoil, and totally reliant on US visa and immigration application fees for funding, an increase in costs for applicants was expected.

Workpermit.com recently reported that a $3 billion Republican funding proposal has been put forward to the Senate with the aim of providing USCIS and Customs and Border Protection with much needed funding.

Workpermit.com can help with US employment-based visas

If you would like to apply for a US work visa – including L1 visasE2 visasO1 visas and H1B visas - Workpermit.com can help. 

Workpermit.com is a specialist visa services firm with over thirty years of experience dealing with visa applications. We can help with a wide range of visa applications to your country of choice. Contact us for further details.  You can also telephone 0344 991 9222.