USCIS Proposes Fee Increases

On January 4, 2023, USCIS published a proposed rule to increase fees for most of the agency’s immigration applications. According to USCIS, which conducted a comprehensive fee review, they receive about 96 percent of their funding from customers in the form of filing fees, but the current fees do not recover the full cost of providing adjudication and naturalization services.

Many categories of petitions will require higher fees to file with USCIS. Some of the highest increases represented are in employment-based petitions, such as the current nominal H-1B registration fee of $10, which will increase to $215. Actual H-1 classification petitions will increase from $460 to $780. Applications for O visa classification will see a sharper increase from $460 to $1,055. The largest increase is on immigration petitions for investors, which is increasing from $3,675 to $11,160.

Humanitarian-based petitions, such as asylum, remain without filing fees, apart from applications for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). DHS did not propose to change to waiver eligibility based on an inability to pay. To encourage the naturalization of lawful permanent residents to U.S. citizens, USCIS proposes only a more modest increase for the N-400 application and biometrics fees—from $725 to $760.

One of the steepest proposed increases is raising the application fee for adjustment of status concurrently with employment and travel authorization from $1,225 to $2,820—a whopping 130 percent increase. For individuals filing for adjustment without applying for travel and work authorization, the fee will be $1,540, which is a 26 percent increase.

With the proposed fee increases, biometrics costs will be incorporated into the main benefit fees so applicants will no longer have to pay a separate biometrics fee. However, adjustment of status applications would no longer benefit from one bundled fee for the I-485, I-131 (Advance Parole), and I-765 Employment Authorization (EAD) applications. Each application will incur its own filing fee. The proposed filing fee for Form I-485 Adjustment of Status will be uniform for everyone, regardless of age (thus eliminating the reduced fee for children under 14 years of age). Additionally, individuals with a pending adjustment of status application would need to pay the I-765 and I-131 filing fees with USCIS when renewing their travel permit or work authorization.

Other changes include changing premium processing from 15 calendar days to 15 business days and having lower filing fee rates for certain applications if filed online, rather than paper filings. (For instance I-130s filed online would be $710, rather than $820 if submitted by paper.)

The last time USCIS successfully increased fees was in 2016. USCIS attempted to raise fees in August of 2020; however, the final fee rule was challenged with legal action, and a preliminary injunction and stay was issued by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Among other reasons, the litigation was based on the government’s lack of an explanation for the proposed fees.

This time, USCIS’s 210-page proposed rule includes significant explanation for its fee review. USCIS accepted comments from the public until March 13, 2023. The agency is required to respond to public comments and then can publish a final rule. However, given the drastic changes in fees, USCIS is likely to face legal action from employers upset with the significant fee increases for work-related immigration applications, especially if forced to cover the costs of asylum-related adjudications. Nonprofits representing low-income individuals who cannot afford the price increases may also go to court with USCIS over its fee increases.

At a time when our nation’s economy is in desperate need for workers, drastically increasing filing fees on employment-based immigration applications seems highly questionable. Moreover, the immense increases on family-based petitions also seem out of place. More frequent and moderate fee increases to keep up with inflation would be far more reasonable, and would be more likely to withstand legal scrutiny.

Though it is unknown exactly when and if the proposed fee increases will take place, we encourage individuals who are currently eligible for immigration benefits to file at their earliest convenience in order to avoid paying higher fees with USCIS.


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