The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has proposed a massive hike in immigration petition fees, including fees to petition for H-2A visas for temporary and seasonal agricultural workers. Under the proposed rule, published by USCIS on Jan. 4, 2023, the fee for an H-2A Petition for unnamed beneficiaries would increase from the current $460 to $530, a 15% increase. The fee for an H-2A Petition for named beneficiaries would rise from the current $460 to a whopping $1,090, a 137% hike.
Employers file petitions for unnamed workers for new H-2A applications. Petitions for named workers are required to extend the length of time an H-2A visa holder can remain in the U.S. on a contract with an extended end date. Named worker petitions are also used to transfer workers who are in the U.S. on an H-2A visa between different H-2A applications of the same employer or to a different employer. It is common for employers with multiple H-2A contracts to transfer workers from one contract to another rather than send the workers home and bring them or replacement workers back into the U.S.
Fees for H-2B unnamed beneficiaries are proposed to increase from $460 to $580 (26%) and to $1,080 for H-2B named beneficiary petitions (135%). The 469-page rule lays out proposed increases to other types of work-related and non-employment related immigration programs. Employment-based immigration fees are proposed to go up more than family-based and naturalization applications. USCIS justifies its need for the fee increases because USCIS is largely funded by application fees, not appropriations from Congress, and the agency’s costs have exceeded revenues for several years.
The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed rule. Western Growers and H-2A industry allies will be submitting comments opposing the fee increase. Once the agency reviews all of the public comments it can publish a final rule and start charging higher fees. Thus, it could take months or over a year before the fee hikes take effect.
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