The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and Sidley Austin law firm have jointly filed a lawsuit seeking “immediate injunction” of the rule hiking the US’ non-immigration visa fee.
The fee hike is set to be implemented from October 2, 2020.
The lawsuit has been filed against Chad Wolf, Kenneth Cuccinelli, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), The Economic Times reported.
Jesse Bless, director of litigation at AILA told the paper, the “dramatic” fee increase would “immediately devastate vulnerable populations and our organisational plaintiffs who serve them”.
Calling the move “wealth tests that belong in the dustbin of history”, Bless noted the 83 percent increase for naturalisation applications and unprecedented hike for asylum applications place “unlawful barrier” on those seeking eligible immigration benefits.
The DHS on its part justified the hike citing increased costs and budgetary shortfall. To which the complaint noted the USCIS’ opaque process for costs calculation and accused the organisation of “burning through ample reserves it had in hand just a few years ago”.
The DHS increased fees for non-immigrant work visas by 21-75 percent, as per which employers filing visa petitions will now pay $555 fee (21 percent increase) for H-1B high-skill visas and $850 (75 percent increase) for L (intra-company transfer) visas.
The rule change, first proposed in November 2019, is meant to “align visa fees with the time agency offices spend adjudicating petitions and applications”, it said.
The development came even as the USCIS appealed to the Congress for emergency funds of $1.2 billion as earnings from visa processing dropped due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The impact on Indian IT and services companies is expected to be huge, as many of these companies hired 50 percent employees on H-1B or L-1 visas. They’ll now pay additional $4,000-4,500 for each visa extension. As such, industry body NASSCOM has filed their protest with the DHS, terming the move “illegal”. Pro–immigration bodies such as the American Immigration Council (AIC) and the AILA had earlier also filed comments opposing the move as one that would “hurt US businesses”.