Although the U.S. economy slowed down a bit during the fourth quarter of 2014, recent reports suggest that it would pick up again because of continued job growth, consumer confidence and spending increases. What does this mean for the immigration practitioners, professionals, and prospective H-1B employers and employees? Assuming that the economy performs as projected, it is highly likely that we will once again, as we did in 2014, witness the H-1B lottery (technically referred to as “Random Selection Process”) during April 2015. To better prepare for the H-1B cap, this article endeavors to summarize a few practice pointers which every prospective H-1B employer and employee should know.
The Filing Fee Depends Upon the Type And Size of H-1B Employer.
Besides legal fee, the employer will need to pay the USCIS filing fees. Note that there is no flat fee that every employer is required to pay. The amount of H-1B filing fee depends on the size and type of employer. All employers are required to pay the base filing fee of $325.00 for the H-1B petition. Additionally, pursuant to the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act (ACWIA), employers are required to pay an additional fee (commonly referred as ACWIA fee) of $750 or $1500 unless exempt under Part B of the H-1B Data Collection and Filing Fee Exemption Supplement.
A sponsoring employer is required to pay a fee of $750.00 if it employs 25 or fewer full-time equivalent employees. In all other cases, the employers need to pay $1500.00. Employers such as institutions of higher education; nonprofit organizations or entities related to, or affiliated with an institution of higher education; nonprofit research organization or governmental research organization, etc. are exempt from paying the ACWIA fee. Additionally, employers seeking initial approval of H-1B must pay a $500 Fraud Prevention and Detection fee as mandated by the H-1B Visa Reform Act of 2004.
Those H-1B employers required to submit the $500.00 Fraud Prevention and Detection fee are also required to submit $2,000.00 fee mandated by Public Law 111-230 if petitioners employ 50 or more employees in the United States; more than 50% of those employees are in H-1B or L nonimmigrant status; petition is filed before October 1, 2014. Further, either the employer or employee can pay an optional premium processing fee of $1,225.00 to expedite the adjudication of a petition. Thus, the H-1B filing fee depends upon the size and type of employer and can range from $825.00 to $5,550.00.
Be Aware of Salary and Benching Costs.
A prospective employer must obtain a certification from Department of Labor (DOL) that it has filed an LCA in the occupational specialty. The employer attests on the LCA that H-1B nonimmigrant worker will be paid wages which are at least the higher of the actual wage level paid by the employer to all other individuals with similar experience and qualifications for the specific employment in question OR the prevailing wage level for occupational classification in the area of intended employment. Thus, not to undercut wages paid to the comparable U.S. workers, Congress has included a safeguard in the H-1B program. Additionally, employers are required to pay the costs for the petition process.
Regulations require that employers must begin paying LCA-stated wages when the employee “makes him/herself available for work” but not later than 30 days after employee’s entry into the United States or 60 days from the date that USCIS grants a Change of Status. Liability begins to accrue when the person “enters into employment” with the employer. Thus, even if the worker has not yet “entered into employment,” when the H-1B worker is present in the U.S. on the date of the approval of the H-1B petition, the employer shall pay to the worker the required wage beginning 60 days after the date the H-1B worker becomes el