(The Center Square) - A new proposed rule that would increase fees for nonimmigrant work visas by an average of 225 percent has come under fire from a bipartisan group of congressional members.
The Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services proposed the new rule on Jan. 4 that would call for an increase to application fees for H-2A and H-2B visas due to staffing shortages, longer processing times, and asylum requests the organization is facing amid a nationwide worker shortage.
According to the release, employers currently pay $460 as a petition fee for just applying for an H-2A or H-2B visa for a potential guest worker. Under the Jan. 4 rule proposal, that fee would increase to $1,080 and $1,090 for named H-2A and H-2B petitions.
In addition, according to the release, employers would also have to pay an additional $600 fee for all petitions for screening and asylum processing. The fee increases would see employers paying $1,680 and $1,690 for guest worker visas.
The bipartisan group, led by U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-WV, and Mike Rounds, R-SD, said the temporary visas are "critical" for aiding small businesses across the country that cannot fill jobs with local applicants. The group also said the increased fees would have negative impacts on small businesses around the country.
"We strongly support making sure our law enforcement agencies have the necessary resources to protect our borders," the senators said in a statement. "We are alarmed, however, that the fee increases will be particularly burdensome for small businesses relying on H-2A and H-2B nonimmigrant visas to meet their workforce needs.
"As you know, we are at a time when many in our country suffer from a severe labor shortage and persistent inflation. It is irresponsible to so drastically increase the price to access these essential guest worker programs while doing nothing to increase their availability."
Manchin and Rounds are joined by Sens. Angus King, I-ME; Mike Crapo, R-ID; Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH; James Risch, R-ID; Kyrsten Sinema, I-AZ; Mark Kelly, D-AZ; Ben Ray Lujan, D-NM; and John Hickenlooper, D-CO.