The reconciliation bill moving through the U.S. House of Representatives, better known as the Build Back Better Act, contains a lot of proposals for a lot of programs. Buried in its lengthy page-count are a few motions that could radically impact the H-1B and other work-based visas.
Section 60004 (did we mention that the bill is really, really long?) establishes “additional supplemental fees” for visas, including “$500 for each petition for E, H-1B, L, O, or P status (Form I-129).” (Just in case you have a whole lot of free time, the section-by-section breakdown of the bill is available on the House.gov website.)
In other words, a company petitioning for an H-1B might end up paying the $460 application fee, the $500 supplemental fee, and thousands in legal fees and premium processing (at least, that’s how Stuart Anderson crunches the numbers over at Forbes). For those firms seeking only one or two H-1B workers, the added fee might not blow a hole in the budget; but for the business-services and consulting giants with a business model centered on many thousands of H-1B applications per year, that extra $500 per petition could add substantially to the bottom line.
During the Trump administration, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) adjusted fees for visas, including the H-1B. The new fee structure (including a $4,000 price tag for renewals) was seemingly designed to make things more expensive for business-services and consulting firms. Although Biden’s administration rolled back many of the Trump-era visa laws, the reconciliation bill (if it passes in its current format) could continue the financial pressure on those companies sourcing thousands of visas.
For critics of the H-1B system who allege that too many companies use the visa to import cheaper labor from overseas, these added fees could prove a good thing. H-1B advocates, meanwhile, will push back. And the big question still remains whether Biden will take bigger steps to revamp the H-1B—the administration’s first regulatory agenda, published over the summer, hinted at the administration’s intention to “modernize” H-1B requirements, but didn’t provide much detail other than that.