On November 14, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published in the Federal Register a proposed rule that would increase the government filing fees for most immigration benefits by a weighted average of 21%. Comments are due on or before December 16, 2019. The rule will not go into effect until after the notice and comment period is complete and the agency publishes a final rule.
USCIS reviews the filing fee structure every two years in order to ensure that the fees collected pay for the cost of adjudicating the benefits. It is a user-funded system supported by filing fees rather than government appropriations. Accordingly, periodic adjustments are required to account for inflation and to alleviate mismatches between the resources required to adjudicate a benefit application and the existing filing fee charged for that type of application.
While periodic filing fee increases are normal, the proposed rule goes beyond incremental inflationary adjustments and alignment with resource intensity to include restructuring of portions of the fee system to cost shift in ways that reflect the current Administration’s immigration policy.
Notable changes include:
- Reinstituting ancillary benefit application fees for applicants filing I-485 Applications to Adjust Status, which will result in the collection of the filing fees from applicants currently not required to pay the fees.
- Restructuring the filing fees and forms required for various temporary work visa categories including H, L, TN, and O.
- Removing the traditional fee increase limit on N-400 Applications for Naturalization which has been in place to encourage naturalization applications.
- Limiting fee waiver requests to only those categories wherein the CIS is legally required to consider requests for fee waivers.
- Collecting the additional fees required for petitions filed by highly dependent H and L employers (50% or more of workforce on H or L visa) for extensions as well as initial petitions.
- Increase fee transfers to U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) based on a more expansive interpretation of activity related to the adjudication of benefits.
The above are structural changes apart from actual fee increase amounts. Some of the most significant fee increases will be for I-485 applicants under age 14. Under the proposed rule, these applicants will be required to pay the same application fee as applicants over age 14. Additionally, applicants for naturalization to U.S. citizenship will be required to pay a fee of $1,170, an 83% increase over the current rate. The regulation and the full list of proposed fees is available on the Federal Register website.
Petitioners and applicants seeking to take advantage of the current fee structure should contact their Foster attorney now to initiate new petitions and applications before the fee increase goes into effect, likely within the next few months.
Foster will continue to monitor changes in USCIS filing fees and will provide updates as appropriate via Foster Immigration Updates© and on the firm’s website at www.fosterglobal.com.