Posts Tagged ‘Filing Fees’

USCIS Filing Fees on the Rise, Again

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019 by W. Scott Railton

As we approach the holidays, most items are on discount. Not so when it comes to immigration fees, unfortunately. USCIS has been busy this past month announcing a series of increases.

DHS proposed on November 14th to increase filing fees for USCIS by a weighted average of 21 percent, while adding other fees and lengthening adjudication processes. 84 Fed. Register 62280, 11/14/19.
DHS proposes to adjust USCIS fees by a weighted average increase of 21 percent, add new fees, and make other changes, including form changes and the introduction of several new forms. Comments are due 12/16/19. (84 FR 62280, 11/14/19). The proposed rule generally forces USCIS customers (meaning U.S. businesses and U.S. family members) to often pay more, without any commitment to better service. Some of the proposals actually lengthen processing times.

Many fee waivers are stricken by the rule, virtually pricing persons out of various processes. I often find people are dissuaded from filing applications, including naturalization and H-1B applications, just because of the exorbitant costs, and this is without regard to attorney fees.

The rule also proposes to shift $200 million in received fees to enhance ICE’s work. Given the restrictive climate, this strikes me as a big piece of the agency’s intention. This Administration cannot get enough enforcement, and as was seen with the southern border, is willing to appropriate money from other sources to pay for it.

In my experience, these fee increases are rolled out every few years. I can’t remember a correlation between higher fees and better service, except perhaps with the initial implementation of premium processing, years ago. This is an agency which is still struggling to move from paper to on-line applications. Both CBP and Department of State are ahead of USCIS on this score.

Bottom line: expect filing fees to increase by 21% sometime in 2020, unless the agency is stalled by litigation. The time to comment is now, up until December 16, 2019.

Sooner…..the price for premium processing is going up to $1440, for applications postmarked on December 2, 2019. For years, this 15 day adjudication service was $1000. Many attorneys feel the agency purposes administers things so that petitioners have little choice but to file with the extra fee. H-1Bs with regular processing now take more than half a year. I-140 petitions can take a year. The processing times have gotten ridiculous, and the agency largely seems unconcerned.

We also may have an H-1B pre-lottery this year, if the agency can roll out its proposed program far enough in advance of the April 1st filing date. USCIS says that it will charge applicants $10 for the opportunity to participate in the lottery. If selected, prospective employers can then submit a full H-1B application.

The agency says it is testing its system, and is not yet sure whether they’ll be able to implement for the upcoming fiscal year. I give it a 50/50 shot. It would be a good thing for employers, if they give employers enough time to prepare the actual application if selected. USCIS sometimes overlooks the on-the-ground concerns of employers. The upside though is companies not selected will not have to pay for H-1B preparation that is for naught, due to losing out in the lottery.

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Posted in General, Scott Railton |

USCIS Filing Fees Rise Again

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016 by W. Scott Railton

On December 23rd, USCIS filing fees for most types of petitions will rise again.  I took a look back at petitions filed in the early 2000s, and the I-129 filing fee then for an H-1B was a straight $130.

Times have changed.  The base filing fee will be $460.  For H-1Bs, all new petitioners must then pay an additional $500 fraud fee.  If you have   25 or more full-time employees, and are not “cap-exempt,” there’s an additional $1500 ACWIA fee.  Many employers also opt for the 15 day “premium processing” fee, for another $1225, since the agency will otherwise take 6 months to adjudicate the petition.  Then, there’s the lawyer’s fee, if one is hired to help.

Here’s a brief list of the increases for some of the petitions we file:

  • I-129 Temporary Worker:  Was $325   Now $460
  • I-140 Petition for Alien Worker (permanent):  Was $580   Now $700
  • I-130 Petition for Alien Relative:  Was $420   Now $535
  • I-485 Adjustment of Status:  Was $985   Now $1140
  • N-400 Naturalization:  Was $595   Now $640
  • I-90 Permanent Resident Card renewal:  Was $365   Now $455

The full list of fees can be found at

In the next year, there will probably be a fair amount of discussion and press coverage on foreign labor employment by U.S. companies.  Businesses usually operate with a profit motive, and will not look outside the local labor market, or pay more than they have to, to hire qualified workers.  There is a significant cost to hiring non-U.S. labor, which involves filing fees, legal fees, legal exposure in some cases, and timing factors.  In our experience, businesses invest a fair amount of time and resources if they determine they wish to hire a non-citizen candidate.

Here’s USCIS’s latest press release on the fee changes:

USCIS reminds applicants and petitioners to pay our new fees with forms postmarked or filed on or after Dec. 23, 2016, or we will not be able to accept the filings. We will only accept previous fees if they are postmarked Dec. 22 or earlier.

Beginning on Dec. 23, you will no longer have a 14-day grace period to correct a failed fee payment. USCIS will immediately reject a benefit request for nonpayment. We will also no longer hold benefit requests submitted without the correct biometric services fees. You must pay biometric services fees, if applicable, at the time of filing. We will reject a benefit request if it is received without the correct biometric services fee, as specified in the form instructions.

Along with the fee changes, we are introducing a reduced fee option for certain low-income naturalization applicants who do not qualify for a fee waiver. For eligibility details and filing instructions, see Form I-942, Request for Reduced Fee, and Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.

USCIS is funded almost entirely by fees. Read our Oct. 24 news release about our first fee increase in 6 years, which is needed to recover the full cost of services. These include the costs associated with fraud detection and national security, customer service and case processing, and providing services without charge or fee waivers and exemptions for those who are eligible.


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Posted in General, Scott Railton |