January 6, 2023

USCIS Proposes Massive Hike in H-2A Fees

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 ruled, 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. The rule would also limit the number of named beneficiaries to 25, so an employer would have to file four petitions for 100 named beneficiaries, instead of one, for example.

USCIS is also proposing to implement a new $600 asylum program fee to be paid by all employers sponsoring temporary (nonimmigrant) workers including H-2A workers. This new fee is intended to cover some of the costs associated with asylum processing, which does not currently require a fee. Employers will be responsible for this fee each time they file an I-129 petition, including all new, extension and transfer petitions, which poses a great concern for farm labor contractors moving large numbers of H-2A workers between temporary labor certifications.

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.

Western Growers and other industry groups submitted comments to the Department of Homeland Security critical of the proposed rule