The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced a significant development – the finalization of a rule adjusting immigration and naturalization fees. This marks the first update since 2016, aiming to enhance the agency's operational capabilities and expedite application processing.
This blog discusses the key aspects of this crucial rule.
Key Changes in the Final Rule
- Purpose of the Rule: USCIS endeavors to recover a greater share of its operating costs and facilitate more timely processing of new applications by implementing this final rule.
- Comprehensive Fee Review: The final rule stems from a comprehensive fee review mandated by law. The review highlighted the inadequacy of the current fee schedule in meeting the full cost of agency operations.
- Director’s Statement: USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou emphasized the significance of updating fees after seven years. Despite inadequate funding, the USCIS workforce has made notable progress in various areas, including customer service and backlog reduction.
- Public Comments and Stakeholder Feedback: Over 5,400 unique public comments were considered in response to the January 2023 notice of proposed rulemaking. USCIS took into account this feedback, leading to several updates in the final rule.
- A reduction of the agency’s required annual cost recovery by $727 million.
- Expanded fee exemptions for various groups, such as Special Immigrant Juveniles, victims of trafficking, U.S. military service members, and families pursuing international adoption.
- Special fee discounts for nonprofit organizations and small business employers.
- Reduced fees for certain categories, including half-price Employment Authorization Document applications for adjustment of status applicants.
- Eligibility expansion for a 50% fee reduction for naturalization applications based on household income.
- A standard $50 discount for online filers.
Important Fee Adjustments
- H-1B Cap Registration Fee Increase
USCIS will substantially increase the H-1B cap registration fee from $10 to $215 per registration, marking a significant 2050% surge. This change is set to take effect in March 2025 for the FY 2026 cap season and beyond. It is part of USCIS’s broader initiative to align fees with the operational costs associated with administering the H-1B registration system. Notably, the current fee of $10 will remain in effect for the upcoming FY 2025 cap season.
- New Asylum Program Fee for Employment-Based Visas
USCIS is introducing a new Asylum Program Fee of $600 for I-129 and I-140 petitions. However, there will be a reduced fee of $300 for small employers (those with 25 or fewer full-time employees). Nonprofit employers will be exempt from this fee.
- Fee Changes for Form I-129, Form I-140, and Form N-400
- Form I-129
USCIS will now impose different filing fees for various classifications using Form I-129, such as H-1B, L-1, TN, and E-3.
For example, the filing fee for an H-1B petition will increase by 70%, reaching $780 from $460, while the L-1 petition filing fee will rise by 201%, reaching $1,385 from $460.
Exemptions and reduced fees may apply to small employers and nonprofit organizations, creating a nuanced fee structure based on petitioner size and nature.
These increases are separate from the new Asylum Program Fee.
- Form I-140
USCIS will impose a nominal 2% increase from $700 to $715 for I-140 petitions.
This increase does not include the new Asylum Program Fee.
- Form N-400
The fee for Form N-400, the application for naturalization, will see adjustments:
Online filing increases by 11% to $710 from $640.
Paper filing increases by 19% to $760 from $640.
New Process and Fees for Adjustment of Status Applications
- USCIS will implement a fee of $1,440 for most adjustment of status applications, with a reduced cost of $950 for applicants under 14 applying concurrently with a parent.
- The fee structure deviates from the initially proposed $1,540 adjustment filing fee.
- I-765 (EAD) and I-131 (Advance Parole, or AP) fees will be unbundled from the adjustment of the status filing fee, requiring separate charges.
- A reduced fee of $260 will apply for EAD applications filed concurrently with the adjustment application or for EAD renewals during the adjustment process.
- Applicants will pay $630 for initial AP and subsequent renewals, without discounts for concurrent filing with adjustment applications or renewals during the adjustment process.
Note: For a detailed list of revised forms and new fees, visit the USCIS Frequently Asked Questions page
Premium Processing Timeline Change
USCIS is extending the premium processing adjudication period from 15 calendar days to 15 business days, impacting planning for immigration filings.
New fees for premium processing requests will take effect on February 26, 2024.
Limitations on Fee Increases
The final rule sets a cap on fee increases for individual filers, ensuring that the new fees do not exceed a 26% increase, equivalent to the Consumer Price Index rise since 2016.
The new fees will become effective on April 1, 2024. USCIS will observe a grace period until June 3, 2024, during which both previous and new editions of certain forms will be accepted with the correct fee.
While the increased revenues will aid USCIS in addressing backlog growth and improving customer experience, it is emphasized that congressional funding remains crucial for managing the rising caseloads effectively.
As USCIS takes this significant step to adjust fees, stakeholders are encouraged to stay informed about the upcoming changes. The finalized rule reflects a balanced approach to financial sustainability and continued commitment to providing efficient immigration services. USCIS envisages that the new fees will contribute to a more robust and responsive immigration system, benefiting applicants and the agency alike.
OnBlick will continue to monitor any further developments. If you require assistance with your H-1B case management, contact our specialists here.