USCIS Fee Hike: Lawsuit A Potential Block to Asylum Program Rule

USCIS is [updated] its government filing fees on April 1, 2024, in large part increasing the filing fees for most immigration petitions. USCIS’s significant changes to fees are in response to inflation adjustment and allegedly to provide increased service. The agency last updated its filing fees in 2016. Nevertheless, on March 19, 2024, a new lawsuit filed by investors and tech employers challenges a rule that would raise costs on many employers and employment-based self-petitioners.

Among the most controversial updates to the fee change rule is the newly created Asylum Program Fee so that USCIS can provide services at no cost to asylum applicants. This program fee is the first of its kind at USCIS and highlights how USCIS is using fees generated from other applications. If this goes into effect, increased fees assessed to I-140 and I-129 applicants will be used to fund asylum operations. This means that I-140 and I-129 petitioners must now pay an additional fee up to $600.

While funding asylum adjudications with an Asylum Program Fee spares asylum applicants from paying filing fees – USCIS at some point tried to impose an asylum filing fee on applicants – placing this fee on employers, skilled workers, and investors is an increased burden, which in turn is detrimental to the U.S. economy. Furthermore, the program will drive an increased wedge between asylum applicants and immigrants seeking employment-based visas. Moreover, attorneys at HNK have significant doubts that USCIS service will improve with increased fees.

While there are many negatives, there are some good provisions in the fee-change regulation: USCIS has a $50 reduced fee for forms that are filed online, but this is only for certain forms. USCIS has also expanded fee exemptions to military members and their families, as well as, to certain humanitarian applicants requesting adjustment of status such as T and U nonimmigrants, VAWA self-petitioners, and Special Immigrant Juveniles. Additionally, USCIS has expanded the eligibility of a reduced N-400 filing fee to those with a household income at or below 400 percent of the poverty guidelines.


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