U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced many filing fee increases, scheduled to go into effect on October 2nd, 2020. Now is the time to file, to avoid these hikes.
The biggest news is naturalization application fees will increase by over $500 per application, pricing many out of the process. Employment-based application fees applications will rise on a weighted average by about 20%. Not all fees are going up: green card renewals, biometrics, and some family-based fees are set to see nominal fee decreases. In its press release, pasted below, USCIS explains that its services are funded by filing fees, and emphasizes its increased focus on fraud.
In 2016, the agency hiked its fees on a weighted average by 21%, and fee hikes like this have been consistent over the past two decades.
Here are some of the most noteworthy changes, with a few comments:
- The naturalization fee for an adult is rising from $640 to $1170. The naturalization process has grown increasingly technical over the past 15 years, with the application form more than doubling in length. The fee increase will disincentivize persons from filing, which cynics will say is the intention of the restriction-focused Administration.
- Nonimmigrant waivers application fees for Canadians will rise from $585 to $1400. These are the applications filed to overcome inadmissibility issues, such as an old marijuana conviction or a prior misrepresentation at the border. Waivers are typically granted for five years. Visa applicants apply for the same waiver without an add-on fee, but without the I-192 form, and so this seems unfair. Also, the I-193 visa waiver application, which can be filed at the border to overcome the lack of documentation, is seeing a big fee hike, from $585 to $2790. This is a bit more significant now, as more professionals are seeking this waiver in light of current consulate closures, in certain circumstances where a change of status will not be approved.
- I-129 fees, for temporary professionals, will now be divided by nonimmigrant classification. The L application for intracompany transfers will jump from $460 to $805. Additionally, these applications have a $500 “Fraud” fee for first-time applications. The L status is a job creator, as international businesses send their executives, managers, and persons with specialized knowledge to the U.S. on this visa, usually with intentions of supporting U.S. workers. When I first began filing these petitions, nearly 20 years ago, the filing fee was $110. With this hike, it will be $1305, before premium processing.
- Adjustments of status applications are getting much more expensive, which may make consular processing more appealing in some circumstances. Currently, the adjustment fee is $1225, which also includes the fee for the I-765 work authorization application and the I-131 parole travel authorization, plus renewals as necessary. The new fee will be $2270, collectively, though each cost is separated out. The agency will charge for renewals of work authorization and parole, which ordinarily shouldn’t be necessary, but the agency has gotten slower and slower in adjudicating these applications. Employers and families with immigrants can be a tough spot here, trying to figure out how long it may take the agency to resolve an application, and make cost decisions.
- USMCA/NAFTA TN petitions for Canadian and Mexican professionals (e.g. engineers, nurses, management consultants) filed via USCIS, will rise from $460 to $695, before premium processing. At the border, the same petition costs $50 plus an I-94 fee. It usually can be adjudicated in somewhere between 15 minutes and an hour.
- Premium processing, the fee-based program that allows certain petitioners to pay $1460 for expedited processing, will change from 15 calendar days to 15 business days.
- Humanitarian applicants are seeing fee requirements, for the first time, in some cases. Asylum and Withholding of Removal applicants will have to pay application fees and work authorization and renewal fees of $550, going forward.
- Some fees are going down. Biometrics fees, an add-on to many applications for fingerprints and pictures, will drop from $85 to $30 for non-DACA applicants, but strangely there is no reduction for DACA applicants. Permanent resident card replacements/renewal applications (i-90s) are now less, dropping from $455 to $405 (on-line filing) or $415 (paper filing). Now, if only the agency could adjudicate these applications in less than a year. Some other applications have similar paper/on-line fee splits.
Below is the agency’s press release:
USCIS Adjusts Fees to Help Meet Operational Needs
WASHINGTON—Today, 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 recovers its costs of services.
Unlike most government agencies, USCIS is fee funded. Fees collected and deposited into the Immigration Examinations Fee Account fund nearly 97% of USCIS’ budget.
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.