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H1B Visa Season – April 1, 2012: All the Fees & Application Tips for FY2013

Over the last 3 years we have done Fee Updates, Information and H1B Quota Predictions for H1B Visa Season FY2012 H1B Visa Season FY2011 & H1B Season Visa FY2010.
So now we are in mid Feb and April 1, 2012 is soon to be upon us and all you potential H1B foreign applicants should be readying you applications because of how quickly the remaining H1B visa quota was filled at the end of last year as well as the US overall unemployment rate improving and heading below 8%,

As with last year we are also documenting the H1B visa costs so you can have all the information in one post. Now while it is unlikely the H1B visa lottery for both the Advanced Degree Exemption quota of 20,000 and the main H1B visa quota of 65,000 will be necessary, as mentioned there was been a rush to towards the end of the FY2012 H1B season and with the unemployment rate down to 8%, and job numbers for skilled workers improving, there is a possibility that this season will be more like 2007 & 2008.

On April 1, 2012 will be the first day the United States Custom & Immigration Service (USCIS )will accept new H1B visa petitions for the FY2013 H1B Visa season. Prior to that you can and should file your ETA-9035(e) for to the Department of Labor to get the your Labor Certification Approval (LCA) because that needs to be sent with the application. And regardless of the fact that we have been inaccurate for the last 3 years as to how quickly the H1B visa quota has been filled, an early and proper application is always the best recipe for success and less heartache. (official USCIS H1B site)

Ensure you also read H1B visa Season Tips and have all your H1B supporting documents ready to file immediately to file via your employer or attorney on April 1, 2012 for the FY2013 season.

Even though we are now in an election year, President Obama did call for some action to be taken even in a small way on the immigration front in his State of the Union address. Personally I think that is unlikely but it is certainly important to pay attention what the candidates are saying in relation to the Immigration policy and how they feel about legislation submitted to the US congress to limit the scope of the H1B visa and and things like the Start-Up visa.

H1B Visa Fees 2012

To Apply for the Visa; (all USD)
1. USCIS Filing Fee with USCIS $325 – Form I-129 (Spouse optional H4 Fee is $300)
2. Fraud Detection Fee with USCIS $500

3. LCA Filing Fee with Department of Labor FREE – Form ETA 9035/9035e (a small win here…although am sure will change one day)
Also have to ensure prevailing wages are met as well in this part so you are paid the same or more as a US worker in same position)

4. Premium Filing Fee $1,225 (optional – Form I-901) – excessive designed to help process where your legal representative has access to case officer phone number and decisions are made fast in 15 days and can also aid spouse partner H4 visa process

5. Public Law 111-230 $2,000 – (dependent) to be submitted by a petitioner which employs 50 or more employees in the United States where more than 50 percent of its employees in the United States are in H-1B or L-1 nonimmigrant status.

6. ACWIA Fee $750 or $1,500 – if your petition is successful this goes to a training fund for US workers and is $1,500 unless you have less than 25 full time employees. Some government, education and non-profit institutions are exempt from this fee

ADDITIONAL FEES FOR VISA STAMPING IN FOREIGN COUNTRY
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7. Consular Application Fee $131 (x2 for spouse)
8. Visa Issuance Fee $100 (x2 for spouse) (but varies by country so check the Visa Reciprocity Section of the USCIS

(NB: If able to transfer to H1B visa status within US without needing to leave the country if you are in a current non-immigrant visa status expires after October 1, then you can file form I-539 with the USCIS along with I-129. If filing these forms together there is no additional fee)

Total If Visa Issued Outside US: $1,706 to $3,456 (plus $1,225 Premium Filing Fee if Opted)

Total If Visa Status Change within US (if eligible):
$1,476 to $3,226 (plus $1,225 Premium Filing Fee if Opted)

NB: If you change your status to H1B within the US and then later travel outside the US for whatever reason, then to re-enter the US you will need to get an H1B visa stamp in your passport anyway so have to attend as US Consulate or Embassy interview in a foreign country.

It is important to realize that none of the above costs include any legal costs at all so if you are deciding whether you need a layer for your H1B visa process if you are paying for one yourself, that you realize what the actual H1B visa application costs are as listed above and thus what your lawyer is charging you for their time. You should note it is NOT mandatory at all to have an attorney

Technically all the H1B visa costs including legal costs are meant to be paid by your employer and most good employers will do all this for you but a few try to pass this cost in various devious ways back to the employee.

If you are paying for a lawyer itself it can be good to get a fixed legal quote for the entire H1B visa process and to shop around but also know that you often get what you pay for and additional work will no doubt cost extra.

Finally is you are trying to decide whether any of the many H1B visa help sites like H1Base or H1visajobs are worth the fees they charge to help in your search then definitely read our reviews and others before making up your mind.

All the Best,
CJ

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H1B Visa Lawyers & Support Sites

One thing we would like to add to our H1B Visa News post relates to the need for legal representation and lawyers for your H1B visa process since it is a common question we get all the time. Technically US Immigration law requires your company to pay for all legal costs if they choose to use that option as well as all H1B visa application costs.

Now we know many of you choose for your own peace of mind or due to the nature of your company that you end up paying for the lawyer yourself for the process. Please note that using a lawyer does NOT guarantee or all things being equal enhance your chances of getting an H1B visa. In truth the reason why immigration lawyers are so highly regarded is because most legitimate companies who employ foreign nationals to the US, especially the top H1B employers like Microsoft, Google, etc. will always use lawyers. Because companies like these always follow the law to the letter and hire talented and highly qualified individuals to legitimate positions, they tend to have their applications approved almost always. Thus the immigration lawyers have a high success rate with H1B visa petitions.

However with individuals where the company refuses to not only pay legal costs but also often requires the applicants to directly pay or at the least reimburse the sponsor employer company partially or wholly the H1B application costs, I’ll bet their success rate is far lower given the above and that the candidates also may not be as highly credentialed and/or the employer and position to quite as specialized (and in some cases even legitimate to the H1B visa regulations).

However I would also be willing to bet in a large proportion of cases their profit margins are higher and their due diligence is not at the level say for an Immigration attorney retained by Microsoft for their foreign nationals. This is because they would be dealing directly with foreigners with less knowledge of US Immigration law or the legal process in general and often very desperate in their state of mind looking for any type of reassurance.

So in summary my caution to all of you H1B visa hopefuls this year not to be tricked or overcharged by Immigration lawyers and to talk to many people and try to get referrals from people you trust if you are engaging a lawyer. Also be fully aware of the actual official H1B visa application costs above so you know exactly what your lawyer is supposedly charging you and request itemization of your bills so you know what they are you charging you for.

Also additionally be aware of the H1B visa support sites that supposedly help you find jobs, employers, arrange US Job Interviews, help you with your US style resume, etc. Most of this information is freely available online and also on this from the links just here as well as many other official sites like Monster to help you with your resume of USCIS Government official sites for the list of past US Visa Employers.

There are also many non-profit and Immigrant support groups that you can look up that if nothing else are great sources of support and reassurance during this uncertain time. Also check out websites like foreignborn.com as well as our own visa and immigration resources section.

Good Luck,

CJ

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