Planning ahead and leveraging available immigration data can help human resources teams take control of their organization’s immigration budget
Immigration is a business process that can impact multiple departments across a company. As talent shortages become a C-level concern, HR professionals are expected to serve as advisers to leadership and provide information on immigration matters, including budgeting and reporting. By fully understanding the dollar costs of immigration and developing a solid process for reporting, HR teams can grow their immigration program more efficiently.
Hone your organization’s immigration budget with these three tips
Consider the costs
Every visa a company sponsors comes with government fees, and as an immigration program scales, so do the costs. The following lists the application fees for a H-1B visa, along with other initial fees employers may have to pay before filing:
Premium Processing (optional): $1,440
Application Fee: $460
American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 (ACWIA): $750 or $1,500 (depending on company size)
Anti-Fraud Fee: $500
It’s also important to stay aware of changes to fee structures. The last major fee increase occurred in FY 2017, but in December, USCIS proposed to once again increase application filing fees for various non-immigrant work visas. The proposal would raise fees by more than 50% for many business applications, according to Forbes contributor Stuart Anderson: H-1B filing fees would increase 22%, while L-1 fees would increase 77%.
Although the newest proposed fee increases have yet to take effect, employers should consider the potential financial impact once a final rule is published. In addition, this year, employers are subject to a $10 fee per applicant that USCIS finalized in December to support the new H-1B electronic registration system for FY 2021 Cap season.
Understand what you’re paying for
Consult with immigration counsel on whether your organization wants to cover all the costs associated with green card sponsorship or pass certain expenses on to employees, and make sure your policy is communicated clearly to employees. Note that employees are only able to pay for form I-140 and I-485 filing costs and cannot pay for any portion of the PERM process.
In addition to government application and processing fees, organizations also need to consider the fees they will be charged by their immigration service provider or law firm. There’s a misconception that with immigration providers, more expensive service is better. However, fees can vary widely by provider and by case type.
A typical fee structure is a flat fee. This is one set price a company pays for all attorney hours, status calls, assessments and consultations, and is common for straightforward visa cases. However, other services, including more complex visa cases not covered by a flat fee, may be subject to hourly billing, depending on the immigration provider.
Get a handle on reporting
A common concern for HR professionals who handle immigration is the lack of holistic organization either internally or in terms of what their immigration law firm has access to. Team members either don’t know where to find important numbers or don’t have time to compile reports on short notice.
Work together to establish what key performance indicators matter to your team as well as leadership. Then, determine what reports will be needed to measure KPIs - these could include foreign national employee headcounts, I-94 reports, case status and others. Once you have this information, establish a cadence with your immigration provider or your team for pulling updated reports so everyone has a clear picture of the costs of the organization’s immigration program.
Immigration professionals also tend to consider budget and fees in the context of talent acquisition, but it’s equally important to consider the costs of retention. An average employee may go through two to three visas and potentially a green card during their tenure at an organization, all of which come with various costs. A strong immigration budget accounts for every stage of the employee life cycle.
Finally, utilizing a robust immigration management platform is an easy way to get a better snapshot of current immigration spend, trends from previous years and a forecast based on future headcount. The more detailed the information is, the better a report you can present to the organization’s leadership team on the current budget and anticipated needs as the organization grows.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.