I-129 Filing Fee: Understanding the Costs for Petitioning Nonimmigrant Workers

The I-129 form is a vital document for employers looking to hire nonimmigrant workers in the United States. It is used to petition the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to allow individuals from abroad to temporarily engage in employment within the U.S. under various nonimmigrant classifications, such as H-1B, L-1, and O-1 visas. The completion and submission of Form I-129 are the initial steps in a multistage employment-based visa application process.

To process this petition, USCIS requires a filing fee, which varies depending on the type of nonimmigrant classification being requested. Keeping up to date with the filing fees is crucial for employers as these fees are subject to change and non-compliance can lead to delays or rejection of the petition.

Payment of the filing fee must adhere to specific guidelines set out by the USCIS, and in some cases, petitioners may be eligible for a fee waiver or required to pay additional fees depending on the visa category or the need for expedited processing.

Understanding the intricacies of the filing fee for Form I-129 is essential as it encompasses not just the basic fee but may also include other costs such as the biometrics fee or the fraud prevention and detection fee. Employers must account for these fees in their budgeting for the nonimmigrant worker petition process. The accuracy in fee payment and adherence to guidelines ensures a smoother processing of the petition.

Overview of Form I-129

Form I-129, known as the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, is a document used by employers to petition U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of a nonimmigrant individual. This petition allows the individual to come temporarily to the United States to perform services, labor, or receive training. The form is relevant to various categories of nonimmigrant workers, including but not limited to:

  • H-1B: Specialty Occupations
  • L-1: Intracompany Transferees
  • O-1: Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement
  • P-1: Athletes, Artists, and Entertainers

Filing Fee: There is a required filing fee that must be paid to the Department of Homeland Security, with no fee waiver available for this particular form.

Sections of Form I-129:

  • Basic Petition
  • Supplements pertinent to the specific nonimmigrant classification
  • Employer’s Declaration
  • Legal Certification

Employers must submit separate payments for each form when filing Form I-129, especially when combined with other pertinent forms such as Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, or Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

It is crucial for employers to adhere to the regulatory, statutory, and instruction requirements when preparing the petition, as these guidelines ensure the Form I-129 is completed accurately. USCIS provides a checklist of required initial evidence to assist in the preparation of the petition, though it must not be submitted with the form itself.

Different Types of I-129 Petitions

The Form I-129 is used to petition for a nonimmigrant worker in several specific classifications, each with unique criteria and purposes.

H-1B Specialty Occupations

The H-1B visa category applies to individuals coming to the United States to perform services in a specialty occupation that requires theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge.

L-1 Intra-company Transferees

L-1 visas serve employees of an international company with offices both abroad and in the United States who are being transferred to the U.S. office. This category is further divided into L-1A for managers or executives and L-1B for workers with specialized knowledge.

O-1 Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement

The O-1 visa is designated for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or a proven record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry.

E-1/E-2 Treaty Traders and Investors

E-1 and E-2 visas are available for nationals from countries with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce. E-1 is for individuals engaged in substantial international trade, whereas E-2 is for investors who are coming to the United States to direct and develop the operations of an enterprise in which they have invested a substantial amount of capital.

P-1A/B Athletes and Entertainers

P-1A encompasses athletes who compete at an internationally recognized level. For entertainers, P-1B is intended for members of internationally recognized entertainment groups.

R-1 Religious Workers

The R-1 visa category applies to religious workers who are coming to the United States to be employed at least part-time by a non-profit religious organization.

Applicable Filing Fees

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) mandates several filing fees for the Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. Below are the specific fees associated with the filing of Form I-129.

Base Filing Fee

The Base Filing Fee for Form I-129 is required for processing the petition. As per the latest USCIS guidelines, ensure to check the official USCIS Form I-129 page for the current fee amount.

Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee

Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee applies to H-1B and L-1 petitions and it is mandatory for employers filing these petitions. This fee is directly utilized to fund the efforts against fraud in visa programs.

American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 Fee

This fee, known as the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 Fee or ACWIA, is applicable to certain H-1B petitions. The fee varies depending on the size of the company, with a different amount charged for companies with 25 or fewer full-time employees than for those with more than 25.

Number of Full-time Equivalent Employees ACWIA Fee
25 or fewer Fee Amount A
More than 25 Fee Amount B

Public Law 114-113 Fee

Employers petitioning for H-1B and L-1 employees may be subject to an additional fee known as the Public Law 114-113 Fee. This fee is typically required for companies with a high percentage of H-1B and L-1 workers.

Optional Premium Processing Fee

For expedited processing, petitioners may choose to pay the Optional Premium Processing Fee. This service ensures that the USCIS will process the petition within a guaranteed timeline. The Form I-907 is used to request Premium Processing.

For the latest and most accurate information on USCIS fees, it’s important to consult the official USCIS website or speak directly with a USCIS representative.

Payment Methods and Procedures

When filing Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, petitioners are required to pay a filing fee to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The payment must adhere to the acceptable methods outlined by USCIS.

Acceptable Payment Methods:

  • Credit Cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover are accepted.
  • Debit Cards: Must bear a Visa or MasterCard logo.
  • Bank Transfers: U.S. bank routing numbers along with checking or savings account numbers can be used.
  • Checks: Personal checks, business checks, and cashiers’ checks are permissible. They must be drawn on a U.S. financial institution and payable in U.S. funds.

Filing Fee Information: The specific fee amount is detailed on the Form I-129 page under the “Filing Fee” section. Failure to submit the correct fee will result in rejection of the form.

Online Payment:

If one opts to use a credit or debit card or bank transfer, payment can be made online through the USCIS electronic payment system.

Checks:

For those paying by check:

  • Include the petitioner’s name and address on the check.
  • Write the form number on the check memo line.
  • Be aware that USCIS will convert the check into an electronic funds transfer.

Important Notes:

  • Fee waivers are not available for Form I-129.
  • Fees are subject to change, and petitioners should verify the current amount before submitting their payment.

For the most up-to-date information on filing fees and payment procedures, it is advised to consult the official USCIS website.

Understanding Fee Exemptions

When filing Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, certain applicants may wonder about the availability of fee exemptions. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) strictly states that there are no fee waivers for this particular form.

Applicants for H-1B or L visas are required to pay the full amount of the filing fees when submitting their petitions. The fee is mandatory because it covers the processing of the form and contributes to the operational costs associated with the services provided by USCIS.

However, in unique situations when an applicant is unable to pay the fee, they may consider other USCIS forms where a fee waiver might be granted. This potential relief is available for certain immigration forms and services based on a demonstrated inability to pay.

It is important for applicants to carefully review the eligibility requirements for fee waivers detailed on the USCIS website, using the information provided in the Request for Fee Waiver section.

Here is a brief outline of the I-129 filing fee structure:

  • No Fee Waivers: Available for Form I-129
  • Potential Relief: Other immigration forms may have fee waiver provisions
  • Eligibility: Strict criteria based on the inability to pay

Applicants are advised to gather accurate and up-to-date information before proceeding, ensuring compliance with all fee-related requirements to avoid rejection of their petitions. Fee amounts and exemption rules are subject to change, and it’s the petitioner’s responsibility to stay informed of the latest USCIS policies.

Required Documentation for Fee Payment

When filing Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, proper documentation for fee payment is crucial. Homeland Security requires the filing fee, and it is important to ensure compliance to avoid rejection of the application.

Payment Forms:

  • Check: It should be made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (do not use the abbreviations “USDHS” or “DHS”).
  • Money Order: Similarly, it should be payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  • Credit Card: If paying by credit card, one must complete and include Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions with the petition.

Document Details:

A petitioner’s check or money order must include:

  • The correct and current filing fee amount.
  • The petitioner’s name and address clearly printed on the check.
  • The date the check or money order is issued.

Evidence of Exemption (If Applicable):

For those petitions that qualify for an exemption from the filing fee, documentation supporting the exemption must be included.

Important Notices:

  • Preparing incorrect fee payment could result in rejection of Form I-129.
  • Ensure that the required fee aligns with the latest fee schedule posted by USCIS.
  • Fee waivers are not applicable for Form I-129.

Maintaining Records:

Petitioners are advised to keep a copy of the payment document and any receipt provided by USCIS. This serves as proof of payment and is helpful in resolving any disputes about fee payment.

Lastly, applicants should monitor the USCIS website for any updates regarding filing fees to submit the accurate amount required at the time of their application.

Consequences of Incorrect Fee Payment

When the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, with an incorrect payment, several outcomes may occur. The most immediate consequence is the rejection of the petition. USCIS is stringent about fee amounts, and any deviation from the required fee could result in the petition being sent back to the applicant without processing.

The specific repercussions include:

  • Time Delays: The review process does not begin until USCIS receives the correct fee. This can delay the petitioner’s plans, potentially affecting employment start dates.
  • Additional Costs: Submitting an incorrect fee can lead to further expenses. For instance, if an applicant overpays, as noted in a past incident where a payment of $350 was made instead of the required $340, the excess does not guarantee processing, and the applicant must bear the cost of rectification.
  • Administrative Hassles: The petitioner must correct the payment error and resubmit the form, adding to the administrative burden and potentially complicating record-keeping.

To prevent these issues, applicants are advised to check the latest USCIS fee schedule before submitting their petitions. It is important to note that fees can change, so relying on older information may lead to mistakes. Accurate, timely submission is critical to ensure that the immigration process proceeds smoothly.

Legislation Impacting I-129 Filing Fees

Legislative actions and other regulatory changes can significantly influence the filing fees for Form I-129, which is used by employers to petition for nonimmigrant workers in various visa categories, including H-1B and L-1. When examining recent legislative influence, it’s apparent that Congress and federal agencies play pivotal roles in establishing fee structures.

For instance, the fee for an I-129 petition is subject to change as proposed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). As per the latest updates, USCIS has proposed different fees for each nonimmigrant worker classification. The fee for an H-1B visa petition, under the new proposal, would increase from $460 to $780, marking a substantial jump.

Additionally, for L-1 petitions the fee is proposed to rise from $460 to $1,385, illustrating another significant increment. This could be attributed to the necessity of funding for USCIS operations, along with ensuring the provision of services without compromising security or efficiency.

It’s also important to note that an additional $600 Asylum Program Fee has been proposed for every I-129 and I-140 petition. This fee is intended to support the US’s asylum system and would be required in addition to the separate filing fee increases.

These adjustments not only reflect USCIS’s effort to cope with its financial needs but also impact the cost of hiring foreign national talent for US employers.

Summary of Proposed Fee Changes:

  • H-1B Visa Petition: From $460 to $780
  • L-1 Visa Petition: From $460 to $1,385
  • Additional Asylum Program Fee: $600 per petition

Employers should keep abreast of these changes to anticipate the financial implications for their business and the application process for their prospective employees.