US judge blocks fee hike for H-1B, L-1 visas, Green Cards
The fee for H-1B petitions filed by US employers was set to go up from $460 to $555 and for L visas from $460 to $805.Updated: Oct 01, 2020, 21:31 IST
A federal judge in California has temporarily blocked the Trump administration from raising filing fees for a range of immigrant and non-immigrant services, including Green Cards and H-1B and L-1 visas used by US companies to hire foreign workers, as well as work authorisation for international students.
The fee hikes were to go into effect on Friday.
The fee for H-1B petitions filed by US employers was set to rise from $460 to $555 and for L visas from $460 to $805. Other charges related to H-1Bs were also slated to go up.
Filing fee for international students for Optional Practical Training, which allows them to work as part for their courses, would have gone up from $410 to $550.
The cost of filing for US citizenship was to rise from $640 to $1,160. Asylum application fee was set to be $50 for each applicant, which would have made the United States the only country in the world to charge asylum seekers.
US district judge Jeffrey S White of the Northern District of California issued the nationwide injunction on Tuesday in response to a lawsuit brought by eight organisations challenging the fee hikes on the ground that top officials heading the Department of Homeland Security at the time did not meet their service requirements — Secretary Kevin McAleenan and his successor Chad Wolf were not confirmed by US Senate.
“Plaintiffs have met their burden to show they are likely to succeed on their claim that Mr McAleenan and Mr Wolf were not lawfully serving under the HSA (Homeland Security Act),” White wrote. “Defendants conceded at the hearing that if this court rejects their arguments on this issue, which it does, the final rule would have been promulgated without lawful authority.”
The Trump administration is expected to appeal the injunction.
“Not only is it unfair and fiscally foolish for the Trump administration to make H-1B visas, green cards, and citizenship too costly for many immigrants, but now a federal judge has ruled it lawless,” said Doug Rand, who worked on immigration policy in the Obama White House, and is now the co-founder of Boundless Immigration, a technology company that helps immigrants obtain green cards and citizenship.
The H-1B petition fees are paid by American employers, who have mostly turned to India to hire highly skilled workers in IT and other specialised professions. Indians hired from India and those enrolled in US colleges and universities have accounted for more than 70% of H-1B visas granted every year.
The short-term non-immigrant visa programme has faced relentless pressure from the Trump administration, which believes it is being used to displace American workers. And the administration has issued a slew of orders tightening and changing rules.