On July 31, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security announced a final rule (PDF) that adjusts fees for certain immigration and naturalization benefit requests to ensure U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recovers its costs of services. the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is adjusting USCIS fees by a weighted average increase of 20 percent, adding new fees for certain immigration benefit requests, establishing multiple fees for nonimmigrant worker petitions, and limiting the number of beneficiaries for certain forms. In addition, Premium Processing review times will increase from 15 calendar days to 15 business days. Based on the changes below, applicants should determine whether to file their applications before the changes take place on October 2, 2020 in the case of a fee increase, or after the changes, if the form they are filing will decrease in fee.
Unlike most government agencies, USCIS is fee-funded. Fees collected and deposited into the Immigration Examinations Fee Account fund nearly 97% of USCIS’ budget.
Some of the changes will be substantial. For example, the I-129 fee for an L-1 visa application (Intracompany transferee for managers or executives), will increase by 75% from $460 to $805. However, the I-140 Petition for Alien Worker fee will decrease by 21 percent to $555, and the I-485 Petition to Adjust Status will decrease by $10 to $1,130. Most striking is the change to the N-400 fee to apply for citizenship, which will increase by 81% from $640 to $1,160 for an online filing, and $1,260 for a paper filing by mail.
A complete list of the changes can be found online in the Final Rule here.
A condensed summary of the changes will be as follows:
As required by federal law, USCIS conducted a comprehensive biennial fee review and determined that current fees do not recover the cost of providing adjudication and naturalization services. DHS is adjusting USCIS fees by a weighted average increase of 20% to help recover its operational costs. Current fees would leave the agency underfunded by about $1 billion per year.
“USCIS is required to examine incoming and outgoing expenditures and make adjustments based on that analysis,” said Joseph Edlow, USCIS deputy director for policy. “These overdue adjustments in fees are necessary to efficiently and fairly administer our nation’s lawful immigration system, secure the homeland and protect Americans.”
The rule accounts for increased costs to adjudicate immigration benefit requests, detect and deter immigration fraud, and thoroughly vet applicants, petitioners and beneficiaries. The rule also supports payroll, technology and operations to accomplish the USCIS mission. The rule removes certain fee exemptions, includes new nominal fees for asylum applicants, and reduces fee waivers to help recover the costs of adjudication.
This final rule also encourages online filing by providing a $10 reduction in the fee for applicants who submit forms online that are electronically available from USCIS. Online filing is the most secure, efficient, cost-effective and convenient way to submit a request with USCIS.
USCIS last updated its fee structure in December 2016 by a weighted average increase of 21%.
For a full list of changes and a complete table of final fees, see the final rule (PDF).
This final rule is effective Oct. 2, 2020. Any application, petition, or request postmarked on or after this date must include payment of the new, correct fees established by this final rule.
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This article is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. This article does not make any guarantees as to the outcome of a particular matter, as each matter has its own set of circumstances and must be evaluated individually by a licensed attorney.
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