Corporate immigration programs should continue to plan for increased costs in 2020 as a result of three major immigration trends.
- USCIS’s sweeping increase in government filing fee costs is likely to occur in spring.
On December 9, 2019, DHS proposed a new rule that would significantly increase government filing fee costs for staple non-immigrant visas. While DHS has been accepting public comments on the proposed rule since December, stakeholders believe that the increased fee rates will push through, and expect implementation in spring of 2020
Proposed Filing Fee Increases
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- Increase in H-1B, L-1, F-1, and I-9 audits underscores the importance of compliance training.
Buttressed by expanded budgets for fraud detection and immigration compliance as well as “BAHA”, the U.S. government is well positioned to perform more H-1B, L-1, F-1, and I-9 audits this year. The government task forces charged with performing investigations in these areas include U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) and USCIS’s Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate.
In 2019 and early 2020, national news outlets, including the LA Times & NPR, published reports of major I-9 audits imposed on diverse businesses, ranging from large technology companies to local bakeries. I-9 audits are conducted by Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) and can result in fines ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars for a single procedural error. Much steeper fines are imposed on employers who employ unauthorized workers. In the reports published by LA Times & NPR, I-9 negligence resulted in heavy fines and the arrests of unauthorized workers. One business even reported their inevitable closure as a result of the hefty fines they incurred during an I-9 audit.
Investing resources in compliance training is always recommended, promising to save costs long term and protect against major workforce disruptions.
- Stricter adjudication standards will result in an increase of H-1B Cap RFES
Last year, USCIS reported that the national average RFE rate for H-1B petition was 60%. Although WR’s H-1B RFE rate is low, we expect that the combination of higher evidentiary requirements under BAHA, reinterpreted legal definitions of the “specialty occupation”, and inconsistent adjudication standards within and across service centers will result in higher than normal RFE rates for FY 2021 cap cases. As the H-1B filing window is set to open on April 1, H-1B cap employers should anticipate the possibility of increased RFE costs over the next several months.
- Global mobility and immigration managers should develop a corporate immigration strategy that accounts for new or increased costs.
- Having a budgeted line item for unexpected changes in policy, procedure, and laws can help you remain in the green while facing a turbulent immigration landscape.
- Discussions with your company’s C-suite & fiscal planning departments may be necessary for increased budget allocations.
- Investing in compliance is critical to overall corporate health.
- USCIS’s “I-129 – Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker Specialty Occupations (H-1B) by Fiscal Year, Month, and Case Status: October 1, 2014 – December 31, 2019”
- NBC’s “Immigration Audit Leads to Abrupt Closure of Liberty Station Bakery Con Pane”
- NPR’s “ICE Raids Texas Technology Company, Arrests 280 on Immigration Violations”
- DHS’s Federal Register /Vol. 84, No. 236/Monday, December 9, 2019, page 62326