Premium Processing Free For H-1B Visas Raised By 12%

The online registration for H-1B visa applications begins in March (Representational)

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently announced a 12% increase in visa application processing fees across all categories, including the widely used H-1B visa. 

The H-1B visa permits US companies to employ foreign workers in specialized occupations requiring theoretical or technical expertise. Effective February 26 of the upcoming year, the new fee for H-1B visa applications will be $2,805 (Rs 2,33,513), up from the current fee of $2,500 (Rs 2,08,122). 

This fee increase also applies to premium processing fees for forms I-129, I-140, I-539, and I-765, as announced on December 27. For instance, processing fees for Form I-539 (utilized by international students, spouses, and dependents of H-1B visa holders upgrading their non-immigrant status) have been raised to $1,965 (Rs 1,63,583) from $1,750 (Rs 1,45,685). 

Similarly, the fee for Form I-765 (allowing individuals, including F-1 students applying for optional practical training (OPT), to seek employment authorization) has increased to $1,685 (Rs 1,40,274) from $1,500 (Rs 1,24,873).

US attorneys recommend employers factor these updated processing fees into their immigration budget planning for 2024. The online registration for H-1B visa applications begins in March, followed by a lottery system and the final visa application process for selected candidates.

The increase in H-1B visa processing fees is due to inflation between June 2021 and June 2023. The additional funds will be used to improve processing services, enhance operations, and respond more quickly to adjudication matters. This aims to make the visa process more efficient and effective. If you choose premium processing for certain visa applications, it means your case gets decided faster. For example, Form I-439 and Form I-765 take 30 days, while H-1B premium processing only takes 15 days. 

Recently, a new program got approved that allows qualified H-1B visa applicants to renew their work visa without having to travel abroad. The program, approved on December 15, will issue 20,000 visas to foreign nationals already in the country over three months starting in December. 

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