(CTN News) – The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently introduced a final rule that will result in an upswing of premium processing fees for specific visa categories.
Notably, H-1B applications are among those affected by this fee hike. Immigration attorneys advise sponsoring employers to incorporate these changes into their immigration budget planning for the upcoming year.
Fee Changes and Effective Date
Commencing on February 26, 2024, the premium processing fees for Form I-129, the application for non-immigrant workers like H-1B or L1 visa holders, will witness a 12% increase, reaching $2,805.
Concurrently, Form I-539, utilized by international students, spouses, and dependents of H-1B visa holders for extending or altering their non-immigrant status, will now incur a fee of $1,965, up from the previous $1,750.
Additionally, Form I-765, which facilitates employment authorization, particularly for F-1 students during their optional practical training (OPT), will see an increase to $1,685 from the current $1,500.
Understanding Premium Processing Fees
Premium processing expedites the adjudication process for visa applications within a predefined, shorter timeline. For example, Form I-539 and Form I-765 are typically processed within 30 calendar days, while H-1B premium processing is concluded within 15 calendar days.
The adjusted premium processing fees aim to account for inflation between June 2021 and June 2023.
USCIS has indicated its intention to implement biennial increases in premium processing fees going forward, but there are currently no plans to alter the processing timeframes for cases requesting premium service.
Implications for Employers and Applicants
Sponsoring employers are urged to consider the revised premium processing fees as an integral component of their immigration budget planning for the upcoming year.
This is especially crucial given the impending E-registrations for H-1B applications, which traditionally commence in March, followed by the lottery process and the subsequent submission of final visa applications for selected beneficiaries.
The USCIS’s decision to increase premium processing fees reflects the agency’s response to inflation and its commitment to maintaining efficient processing timelines.
Employers and applicants navigating the immigration landscape should stay informed about these changes to ensure compliance and successful visa processing in the coming year.