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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

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,

H1B Visa Application, Extension & Transfer Process

The H1B is a non-immigrant visa available for foreign individuals, which permits them to work on US soil in certain specialty occupations.

The general process for applying for a H1B visa include-

  • The candidate must be employed by a US H1B visa employer (sponsor)
  • The sponsor then petitions for a H1B visa on behalf of the candidate, to the US Immigration Bureau
  • The Immigration Bureau considers the application, and then either approves or discards the request
  • In case the application for a H1B visa is approved, the candidate is now permitted to work on US soil for his/her employer

Applying for a H1B work permit should be undertaken carefully, as the form is liable to be rejected in case of any discrepancy or erroneous entries. The following things need to be taken care of while filing the application for H1B visa

    • In order to apply for a H1B permit, the sponsor/employer must first file a Labor Condition of Application (LCA) with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and then file a petition for non-immigrant individuals they wish to employ with approved LCA and supporting document evidence with the USCIS (Form I-129).

The LCA filed by the sponsor with the DOL provides information about the company and agrees on certain working conditions. The employer must provide the wage level of the H1B worker, and also certify that the working conditions are conducive for all workers. After the approved LCA is returned by the DOL, the sponsor can file a petition for a H1B permit with the ISCIS with proper supporting documents.

  • H1B visas can be filed in two ways- either using the regular service, or using the premium processing service. The regular filing process takes a lot of time, so employers looking for faster processing are advised to opt for the premium processing filing.
  • The USCIS allows the provision for a H4 visa for the family of the candidate filing the H1B petition. The H4 is a similar non-immigrant visa that allows the holder to reside in the USA for a certain period of time. However, H4 visa holders are not allowed to work in the USA. The H4 visa, however allows them to study in the US.
  • In many cases, the USCIS requires an evaluation of the credentials of the candidate, to ensure that the candidate’s degree is equivalent to a U.S. degree. The candidate must also provide proper supporting documents, such as degree certificates(s), mark sheets, etc. This process goes on simultaneously with the LCA approval process, so it does not delay the approval process.
  • Approximately after 4 to 10 weeks, there is a Receipt Notice of Action sent to the sponsor by the USCIS, indicating that they are beginning the processing of the application, in case they are satisfied with the file, they send an Approval Notice of Action within 30-90 days of the receipt notice. In some cases, the USCIS may request some clarification or information before approving the application.
  • Finally, when the approval is received, the worker may start working for the employer in the U.S. after having their visas issued and stamped from the U.S. Embassy.

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H1B Extension