Friday, July 17, 2009

Who can pay the H-1B costs - employer or employee?

Many foreign nationals report that their employers ask the employees to pay the costs of getting H-1B status for themselves. If the employees are not asked to pay up-front, they may be asked to sign a reimbursement agreement, agreeing to repay the costs if they leave the company within a certain time.

H-1B Costs

There are 2 main costs in getting H-1B approved: government filing fees and legal fees. The filing fees are:
A. $320 I-129 fee
B. $1500 Education and Training Fee (For 1st H-1B petition and first extension) fee is $750 if under 25 employees.
C. $500 Anti-Fraud Fee (for employer's first H-1B petition for that foreign national).

Legal fees vary by attorney, of course.

What can the employee pay?

An employee cannot pay any part of the training fee listed at B. above. This is not permitted under any circumstances. Many attorneys believe that the employee legally can't pay the $500 Anti-Fraud Fee either. This is not correct - CIS has specifically said that this fee "does not need to be paid only by the petitioner." (AILA Service Center Operations teleconference 4/11/05).

There is a possible restriction on employees paying any of the rest of H-1B fees, if the salary being paid to the employee is very close to the "prevailing wage" or the "actual wage" for the position.

"Prevailing wage"is what the employer must agree to pay the foreign national, and it is what a survey shows is the normal salary for that position in that location.
"Actual wage" is defined as "the wage rate paid by the employer to all other individuals with similar experience and qualifications for the specific employment in question." If there is nobody else with similar experience and qualifications for the job (because the H-1B worker is the only person in that category), then the "actual wage" would be whatever is paid to the H-1B employee.

There is an argument that if an employee pays any of the H-1B fees, this must be considered as a deduction from salary. If the salary, after this deduction, is below the "prevailing wage" or "actual wage" (whichever is higher), then there is a problem.

Are reimbursement agreements enforceable?

Apart from the limitation on recouping fees above, the question of whether a reimbursement agreements is enforceable is a matter of local state employment and contract laws.


  1. Thank you for the information.

    May be its irrelevant to the topic, but what about the aggreement asking for recouping GC costs? are they legal? can they be enforceable?

  2. An employee cannot pay any part of the costs of the PERM step to permanent residence, since July 2007. The employee can pay the I-140 and 485 costs.