USCIS Filing Fee Increases May be Coming (again)
USCIS Fee Increases Proposed
On November 14, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced its proposal to increase certain immigration and naturalization fees charged by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If the proposal comes into effect, filing fees are expected to increase by an average of 21% for operational needs. Due to the fact that the USCIS is fee-funded, the fees that are collected compose almost 96% of its budget.
DHS argues that the increased fees will cover its costs, and that without increasing its fees, the agency would be underfunded by $1.3 billion per year.
This proposition would not only include fee changes, but it would also make changes in forms used by the USCIS. The fee increase proposal is to cover the full costs of administration and adjudicating applications and petitions.
Applications Affected & Premium Processing
Adjustment of Status applications, DACA, and Naturalization will be affected. Adjustment applicants will have to pay each time for work and travel document renewals. The cost to file an adjustment application would increase to $2,195 and applicants will be required to pay $490 for each employment authorization document renewal and $585 for each travel document renewal. The naturalization fee would increase by 83% and cost around $1170 with this implementation. The DACA renewal fee would see an increase of 55%, bringing the cost to $765 for a renewal.
USCIS has also recently announced a possible slowdown in premium processing times. USCIS proposed to change its premium processing from 15 calendar days to 15 business days, allowing the agency to process more requests in a timely manner. This may reduce the need for USCIS to suspend premium processing when filing volumes are too high. Meanwhile, on December 2, increased fees for premium processing (to $1440) will go into effect–this is not a proposal, but rather, will be implemented.
Nonimmigrant Worker — Including H-1B and L-1 — Form Changes Also Proposed
Similar to the changes to filing fees proposals, changes to the forms used by employers sponsoring workers under H-1B and L-1 categories may also be undergo changes. USCIS is proposing a separate form for each visa classification (H-1B, H-2B, L-1, O, and TN) with a correlating different fee.
USCIS states that such an increase will “simplify or consolidate the information requirements for petitioners and applicants as well as better reflect the cost to adjudicate each specific classification”. USCIS filing fee changes also propose that employers with more than 50 employees with over 50% of them having such status, pay an additional $4,000 for each initial H-1B petition and $4,500 for each initial L-1 petition.
Amongst the plethora of changes the U.S. immigration system is undergoing, it will be important for applicants and their employers to work closely with their immigration attorney to stay abreast of any form or fee changes, as they take effect. USCIS will reject any applications filed with the wrong form or filing fee.