Federal Court Rejects Lawsuit Accusing USCIS of Unlawful Fees for H-1B Petitions

Federal Court Rejects Lawsuit over H-1B

On Friday, an association of information technology companies filed a suit against the USCIS. The companies accused the USCIS of collecting millions in fees from workers already in the country when they applied for H-1B status. The Court of Federal Claims dismissed the accusations.

Judge Ryan T. Holte granted the federal government’s summary judgment motion. However, the judge also rejected the motion brought by the plaintiffs. The suit sought a refund for the illegally charged visa fees when they filed status petitions. The companies further explain how their H-1B foreign national employees, already admitted and working in the United States, sought a change in nonimmigrant status.

The plaintiffs further claim the collected fees were due to a misapplication of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Therefore, the collection was in error. However, the judge explained that there were two statutes in 2010 and 2015 related to the fee increase and favored the USCIS interpretation, which he found reasonable. Therefore, the judge found that, according to the statutes, the USCIS can impose increasing fees in response to employer petitions for a change of status.

Furthermore, the judge stated the plaintiff’s only argument is that increased fees for 50/50 employers should only apply when H-1B employees seek physical admission to the US. The plaintiffs emphasized that the costs should not apply when employers seek a change in status. However, USCIS argued that Congress’s intent to use this fee is evident when viewed as a whole and in context.

Though the law does not explicitly identify the type of petitions these fees should apply, USCIS maintains that the costs should apply whenever a separate fee for fraud detection efforts is applied. According to the summary judgment, the USCIS implemented the relevant fees together for theses H-1B workers. The collected fees include filing and fraud prevention.

The plaintiffs have argued that this decision by USCIS lacked any reasoning. The argument claims that, because the legislation is silent on when to apply the enhanced fee and those for filing and fraud prevention, the agency chose to extend its authority to combine them without justification. However, the court was not receptive to this and granted USCIS’s motion for summary judgment.

H-1B and other employment-based visas can offer an excellent way for organizations to expand their talent pool, particularly in the tight labor market. However, it is crucial to remember that the documentation requirements for these workers are often complicated, and the Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9) is no exception. One of the best ways to reduce this paperwork burden is with an electronic I-9 management system. This electronic tool can guide employers and ensure easy and secure storage of documentation and paperwork.

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