The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a new proposed rule (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) in January 2023 to adjust certain fees for applications for immigration and naturalization services. The proposal will be subject to 60 days of public comment. Submissions of comments will be accepted until March 06, 2023. After that, a decision will be made.
What exactly is the U.S. agency trying to accomplish and why?
There are several reasons for the proposed fee increase, including:
- Operating costs can be better covered
- Timely processing of individual applications
- Preventing the continuation and accumulation of backlogs
It is important to note that USCIS is 96% self-funded by application and filing fees, not by Congressional funding. Fees were last increased in 2016 and have remained unchanged since then.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, USCIS suffered a huge drop in revenue. The dramatic drop in new applications led to an increased drop in revenue (up to 40%). USCIS responded to this temporarily with a hiring freeze and staff reductions.
As part of the planned fee increase, fees for low-income applicants are to be reduced or only slightly increased each year. Furthermore, fee waivers for humanitarian programs, among others, would be made available. With this fee increase, operating costs could be fully covered for the first time in 6 years. In addition, the USCIS can build up staff numbers so that applications can again be processed in a timely manner.
In this context, the following adjustments are to be made:
- Integration of biometric data costs into the main fee for individual services
- Introduction of separate fees for each non-immigrant classification covered by the I-129 form (H-1B, L-1, O-1, etc.)
- Increasing the processing time for premium process: from 15 calendar days to 15 business days
- Introduction of lower fees for certain forms filed online
What amount of revenue is expected and what exactly will it be spent on?
A total of $5,150.7 billion is expected for the fiscal year 2022/2023. This is approximately $2,112.9 billion more than in the fiscal year 2016/2017
Increased revenues are expected to cover the following costs, among others:
- $149 million for annual salary increases
- $63 million to improve customer service through better support
- $425 million for the processing of asylum seekers
- Increasing the refugee budget to $82 million
- $102 million for technology maintenance and upgrades
To achieve this revenue, the following changes would be necessary:
- I-129 L Petitions: from $460 to $1,385
- I-765 (EAD) Paper Filing: from $410 to $650
- I-765 (EAD) Online Filing: from 410 USD to 555 USD
- H-1B Pre-Registration: from $10 to $215
- I-129 H-1B Petitions: from 460 USD to 780 USD
Whether or not the fee increase will take place depends on a variety of factors. If the proposed rule is passed, the new fees could go into effect in early 2024.
If you have any questions about this, please feel free to contact us.
Kai Mütze – Managing Director
Tel.: +49 561 703453 12