On May 04, 2016 the Department of Homeland Security published a proposed rule in the Federal Register, announcing that filing fees for many USCIS petitions and applications are expected to increase for U.S. employers and foreign nationals. The proposed regulation stipulates that filing fees may be adjusted for certain immigration and naturalization benefit requests by USCIS. The increase in filing fees was considered after USCIS conducted a comprehensive review of its fees and found that the current fees do not cover the cost of services provided by USCIS. According to USCIS, in an effort to fully recover costs and maintain adequate services, “an adjustment to the fee schedule will be necessary”. According to the regulation, fees for most employment-based petitions and applications would be raised by an average of 21%, though other types of petitions may experience a higher increase in filing fees.
According to DHS, the higher fees will more accurately reflect the current cost of processing immigration applications and petition. A portion of the increased fees would provide additional funding for refugee and citizenship programs as well as system support for interagency immigration status verification databases. The increase in filing fees will not take effect until the federal government approves the regulation, which is expected to take several months following the close of the 60-day comment period on July 5, 2016.
According to the new fee schedule under consideration, employment-based petitions would be the most impacted by the increase in filing fees. The filing fee for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, would increase by 42% to a fee of $460, from the current rate of $325. Similarly, the filing fee for Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, would increase by 21% to a fee of $700, from the current rate of $580. The complete fee schedule under consideration has been provided below for your reference.
The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program is expected to be the most heavily affected by the new fee schedule. The filing fee for Form I-924, Application for Regional Center Under the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program, would increase by a rate of 186% requiring Regional Centers seeking designation under the program to pay a filing fee of $17,795 instead of the current rate of $6,230. In addition, Regional Centers would be required to pay a $3,035 annual fee to certify their continued eligibility for the designation. Currently, there is no fee in place for annual certification. The filing fee for the I-526 Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, an application associated with the EB-5 visa program, would also increase to a rate of $3,675, a 145% increase up from the current rate of $1,500. The filing fee for an investor’s petition to remove conditions on residence would remain unchanged under these new regulations.
The filing fee for the I-131, Application for Travel Document, would increase by a rate of 60% to a fee of $575 from the current rate of $360 for applicants seeking advance parole and re-entry permits. Adjustment of status applicants who have filed Form I-485 on or after July 30, 2007, and paid the I-485 filing fee, will not be required to pay a filing fee for Form I-131 if their Form I-485 remains pending with USCIS. Please note that Form I-912 Request for Fee Waiver, may be filed for any family-based non-immigrant visa petitions, if the applicant can demonstrate their inability to pay based on any of the following: financial hardship, household income is at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, or the applicant, spouse, or head of household is currently receiving a means tested benefit.
Under the new regulation, the filing fee for Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, would increase by a rate of 16% to $1,140 up from the current rate of $1,070 (including biometrics). The proposed rate will include the cost of concurrent filing of Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization and Form I-131, Application for Travel Document to return to the United States after temporary foreign travel.
The proposed rule would introduce a three-tiered fee structure for naturalization applicants including: 1. a standard filing fee for most applicants, 2. a reduced fee for those whose household income is greater than 150% but less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, and 3. no fee for certain applicants in the military and others who qualify for a fee waiver.
The proposed regulation will be open for comment for a 60-day period from the date of publication, closing on July 05, 2016. Written comments must be submitted on or before July 5, 2016. Feedback may be provided online by clicking here and following the website instructions, by emailing USCIS firstname.lastname@example.org including the Docket numbers of the proposed regulation in the subject line of the message (CIS No. 2577-15, DHS No. USCIS-2016-0001), or by mail Attn: Samantha Deshommes, Acting Chief, Regulatory Coordination Division, Office of Policy and Strategy, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security, 20 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20529-2020. Remember to include the docket numbers in all correspondence.