Crafting an Immigration Budget

The cost of immigration and mobility for organizations often tops the list of pain points for HR professionals surveyed in Envoy’s annual Immigration Trends Report. For HR and mobility teams, managing and forecasting immigration-related costs for their organization is a key function of their role.  

There are both predictable and unpredictable factors for HR and mobility teams to consider when planning financially for immigration-related costs. Implementing a few immigration budget strategies can help HR and mobility teams stay on track within their organization’s financial restraints and ensure a seamless immigration process for key foreign national employees and candidates.   

Determining the Immigration Costs for an Organization 

While there are a variety of costs that can be associated with an immigration and mobility program, three major buckets make up the bulk of a typical budget: 

Government filing fees 

Most temporary employer-sponsored visas – like the H-1B, L-1A/L-1B, TN, etc. – and green card applications require the company to pay a filing fee to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). These fees range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, and companies are required to pay them each time a new application is filed on behalf of a foreign national employee or candidate.  

While some of these fees can appropriately be paid by the foreign national themselves, USCIS does require that some fees only be paid by the employer. It is important to check with immigration legal counsel before allowing a foreign national to pay any government filing fees.  

There are mandatory fees, and then there are optional fees like premium processing, which allows companies to pay an additional fee to expedite the processing time for certain visa applications. Government filing fees are subject to periodic increases. Although government filing fees may be predictable, sudden changes in government policies – like the October 2020 Visa Bulletin – may lead to unanticipated costs for an organization, as it could lead to a sudden increase in immigration filings.  

Legal fees 

While some organizations opt to utilize internal legal counsel for immigration matters, most leverage the services of outside immigration legal counsel. In general, the cost structure for outside immigration legal counsel is divided into two types: flat fees and hourly billing.  

Immigration legal counsel typically charges a flat fee for individual applications prepared and filed with the government. Hourly fees may be charged in immigration matters that require varying complexity, such as a response to a Request for Evidence (RFE), general research or an appeal.   

Immigration and mobility perk package offerings  

These perk packages are an important strategy for organizations to attract and retain skilled foreign talent, but each offering comes at a cost. These offerings may include providing temporary housing, covering relocation expenses, paying for dependent family members visa or green card applications, offering immediate green card sponsorship to the foreign national employee and more.  

These three cost buckets are, for the most part, predictable within an annual budget cycle. Government filing fees and legal fees may increase slightly, but typically an organization receives ample notice to plan for any increases. Organizations can also accurately predict the amount of visa extension and green card applications they may file on behalf of their employees, as well as the subsequent costs associated with filing those applications.  

Other factors are not as easily predictable, such as changes in government policies or the number of RFEs an organization may receive each year. It’s important for HR and mobility teams to understand these factors and consider them when crafting an immigration budget.  

Predictable Cost Factors 

Unpredictable Cost Factors 

  • Government filing fees 
  • Flat legal fees 
  • Immigration & mobility perk packages 
  • # of visa extension and green card cases filed
  • Hourly legal fees 
  • # of RFEs  
  • Growth of organization (hiring more foreign national employees) 
  • Sudden changes in government policies


Developing an Immigration Budget 

For HR and mobility teams, an accurate and resilient immigration budget can, in part, be crafted by implementing a few strategies.  

The factors that impact an immigration budget will inevitably vary depending on the unique needs and capacities of an organization. Unpredictable factors may also impact an immigration budget, so it’s important for organizations to consider including a buffer for these variables within their budget.  

HR and mobility teams can consider three broad strategies when crafting an immigration budget: 

  1. Establish clear policies for sponsorship and immigration and mobility perks to keep immigration-related costs within budget.
  2. Coordinate with senior leadership to anticipate the growth of the organization. A hiring increase – particularly in STEM-related positions – will likely lead to the organization needing to sponsor more foreign national employees for temporary visas and potentially green cards, thus requiring an increase in the immigration and mobility budget.
  3. Leverage an immigration technology platform to provide periodic budget forecasts for your organization. For example, Envoy Global provides users with the ability to quickly and easily pull reports on their immigration-related costs and offers custom budget forecasting. A Decision Tree for Initiating the Green Card ProcessA Decision Tree for Initiating the Green Card Process Organizing an Internal Team for Immigration and MobilityOrganizing an Internal Team for Immigration and Mobility Three Tips to Perfect an Immigration Budget in 2020Three Tips to Perfect an Immigration Budget in 2020