The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking with fee increases for immigration filings. Under the proposed rule, the most dramatic increases would apply to employment-based petitions.
The USCIS typically gets more than 90 percent of its funding from filing fees. The proposed rule arose out a comprehensive review by the USCIS that concluded that the agency’s current fees, unchanged since 2016, “fall far short of recovering the full cost of agency operations.”
Interestingly, the USCIS acknowledges that the proposed increase for employment-based petitions is intended to help finance the processing and backlog of asylum and humanitarian cases. In addition to the fee increases described below, there is a proposed $600 Asylum Program Fee that would apply to all petitioners filing non-immigrant (Form I-129, used for employer-sponsored petitions such as the H-1B and L classifications) and immigrant (I-140) petitions. The proposed fee increases, plus the Asylum Program Fee, are expected to have the greatest impact on not-for-profit and small employers. Some of these employers may be deterred from filing petitions for needed and talented foreign workers.
Highlights of the proposed rule
As a preliminary point, it is important to note that certain filing fees are mandated by statute and are not affected by the proposed rule. These include the extra fees for many of the H-1B petition filings – for example, the Training Fee ($1,500 or $750), and the Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee ($500) that applies to H-1B and L-1 intra-company transferee petitions.
In addition, as can be seen by the fee increases described below, the USCIS is proposing a lower fee for online filing where that is available, thereby encouraging the use of online filing.
Proposed fee increases
The basic fee for H-1B petitions would increase 70 percent, from $460 to $780.
The fee for H-2A agricultural worker petitions for named beneficiaries would increase 137 percent, from $460 to $1,090, and for unnamed beneficiaries 15 percent, from $460 to $530.
The fee for H-2B seasonal worker petitions for named beneficiaries would increase 135 percent, from $460 to $1,080, and for unnamed beneficiaries 26 percent, from $460 to $580.
The fee for L-1 intra-company transferee petitions would increase 201 percent, from $460 to $1,385.
The fee for O-1 petitions would increase 129 percent, from $460 to $1,055.
In addition to these hefty increases, the proposed $600 Asylum Program Fee would apply to all I-129 petitions.
I-140 Immigrant Petitions for Alien Workers. These fees would increase only 2 percent, from $700 to $715. However, the proposed $600 Asylum Program Fee would also apply.
H-1B Lottery Registration Program. These fees would increase 2,050 percent, from $10 to $215.
I-765 Employment Authorization Applications. These fees would increase 35 percent, from $410 to $555, for online filing. The increase for paper filing would be 59 percent, from $410 to $650.
I-539 Applications. The fees for online applications to extend or change non-immigrant status would increase 42 percent, from $370 to $525. The increase for paper filing would be 68 percent, from $370 to $620.
I-485 Applications. These applications – to adjust status to permanent residency – would increase 35 percent, from $1,140 to $1,540. But the news gets worse: Currently, the fees for filing Applications for Employment Authorization and for a Travel Document are included in the I-485 fee. Under the proposal, that would end. When the fees for these documents are added to the proposed I-485 fee, the total cost would increase 130 percent, from $1,225 to $2,820.
More features of the proposal
Increased time to adjudicate I-1-907 premium processing requests. The proposed rule seeks to extend the period for the USCIS to adjudicate premium processing requests from the current 15 calendar days to 15 business days. If approved, the premium processing period in effect will be extended an additional week. That is not a welcome proposal for employers and their attorneys because an extra week may adversely affect a foreign national’s legal status in the United States.
Biometrics fee. The proposed rule incorporates the biometrics fee into the fee for the particular filing in most cases where biometrics is required.
Premium Processing. The proposed rule does not include any further increase in the current fees to file a Form I-907 premium processing request.
Comments accepted through March 6
Interested employers and others may submit comments, identified by docket number USCIS-2021-0010, through the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Comments must be received on or before March 6. A significant number of comments on a particular item may result in some changes to the proposed rule. Please let us know if you have any questions regarding this process or would like assistance with drafting or submitting a comment.