Buried in the Omnibus Appropriations Bill that Congress is currently considering is a provision that would re-instate and double the “penalty” filing fee imposed on employers with 50 or more employees where 50% of those employees are H-1b or L-1b visa holders. The new fee would also apply to extensions. The new penalty fee for H-1b petitions would be $4,000 and for L-1 cases, $4500.
Recently, The Field Adjudicators’ Manual was updated to clarify how reciprocity fees are affected when consular officers collect the Fraud Prevention and Detection fee and/or the Border Security Act fee. Blanket L-1 visa applicants are sometimes charged reciprocity fees (formally termed “visa issuance fees” by DOS) depending on their country of origin and whether the U.S. has entered into an agreement or treaty with the applicant’s home country. Reciprocity fees are not the only type of fees associated with Blanket L-1 visas. There are also Fraud Prevention and Detection fees and Border Security Act fees for some applicants.
It’s difficult to keep up with all the different ways USCIS can come up with to charge a fee for an L visa, but below is a break down:
- There is no base fee for the filing of a Blanket L-1 visa. The I-129S instructions specifically says “[t]here is no base fee for this form.”
- Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee. This fee is $500 for everyone who files under a blanket L petition. The fee is paid to the embassy or consulate if the application was filed there, or to DHS is the petition is filed with CBP.
- Border Security Act Fee. This $2,250 fee is for applications for workers whose petitioner employs 50 or more individuals in the U.S. if more than 50% of those employees are in H-1B or L nonimmigrant status.
- Reciprocity Fees. These fees are determined by country of origin and are wide-ranging. Many countries have no reciprocity fees for L-1 visas. Others pay in the $500 range.
The new clarifications were designed to explain how all of these fees interact. In short, people who have to pay either the Fraud Prevention and Detection fee or the Border Security Act fee (or both) will receive a “discount” in the amount of that fee on their reciprocity fee.
So, if an applicant is assessed a $1000 reciprocity fee, but is also assessed a $500 Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee, his reciprocity fee will be reduced to $500.
If an applicant is assessed a $1000 reciprocity fee, but is also assessed a $2,250 Border Security Act fee, the applicant’s reciprocity fee is reduced to $0.