Visa Conundrum: What Are The Coveted H1B Visas, And Why The Fee Hike Matters

Visa Conundrum: What Are The Coveted H1B Visas, And Why The Fee Hike Matters

The H-1B visa is a temporary (nonimmigrant) visa category designed to enable employers to sponsor highly educated foreign professionals to work in US.

Juviraj AnchilUpdated: Thursday, February 15, 2024, 02:26 PM IST
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Representative image | File

Immigration is an issue that concerns Americans deeply, something that deeply placates policy making of governments along with decision making of citizens in the polling both. But beyond the individuals who live within the territorial bounds of the USA, immigration to the country, has ripple effects throughout the globe, especially for India.

There are close 5 million Americans, who happen to be of Indian-origin. In 2023 itself, nearly 60K Indians accepted US citizenship, and many more enter the country hoping to do the same. In such a situation the process through which these individuals enter the country is deeply pertinent. Visa is a medium through which people traverse past their own realms into other regions. Although a simple concept, in the American context, not only is it intricate, it is also imperative, given the impact it has.

Although there are many Visa types, including EB1, EB2 and EB3, the most discussed visa-type is of that of H1B.

What is the H1B visa?

The H-1B visa is a temporary (nonimmigrant) visa category designed to enable employers to sponsor highly educated foreign professionals to work in "specialty occupations". This prerequisites of this visa-type necessitate the applicant to have a bachelor's degree or its equivalent. Occupations in fields like mathematics, engineering, technology, and medical sciences frequently meet the criteria. Initially, the H-1B visa is granted for a duration of three years, with the possibility of extension for up to a maximum of six years.

The U.S. employer is required to pay a fee for each registration submitted. These registrations contain limited information about both the U.S. employer and the foreign national, which contrasts with the detailed information that USCIS requires when the U.S. employer submits a full H-1B petition.

In the Indian context, highly-qualified individuals from elite Indian universities, including IITs rely on this visa to follow their placement and live the 'American dream'. Most of them, who rely on this mechanism are professionals from the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) field, who end up working for major tech-giants in the Silicon Valley and elsewhere in the US.

The hike in fees and its impact

Given the crucial nature of the visa, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) decision to finalize its revised rates for visa applications and registration fees created a lot of flutter.

This hike has that impacted other visas. However, it notably impacted H1B visas as well. The said changes in the rates marked a 2050 per cent surge in registration fee. The new H-1B registration process fees will be USD 215, which is in glaring contrast to the current rate of USD 10. The increased fee structure will be effective from April 1 of 2024.

This is also to limit the number of registrations made under the visas. This also will increase the revenue generated from the processes. Officially, it is being attributed to the workload of paperwork, that has to be processed.

This will have an impact on many who are either in the process or are planning to put the process to use. As many as 410,195 recipients were admitted through this visa in 2022. The impact that it has on the work force is another element, that has two facets, for, in the US, H1B visa workers play a major role in many cash-rich industries, that drive the US economy. On the other hand, it also employs individuals from developing countries, like India, who move out looking for better prospects. Any direct or indirect truncation of the process will have an impact over these workforces, leaving many underemployed, limiting their potential.

This decision was met with backlash from the netizens. Many aspiring immigrants expressed their despondence.

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