Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued notice of a proposed rule that would update the application fee schedule for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), noting an overall substantial increase in fees for certain visa categories in order to recover costs for USCIS services.
DHS will receive comments in response to the proposed rule, which can be found here, through July 5, 2016. After the comment period, DHS will consider the comments before finalizing the rule, so no effective date is known yet.
USCIS is a self-sustaining agency, being funded almost entirely by the filing fees it collects. The agency reviews its finances every other year to determine whether adjustments must be made, taking into account anticipated needs, national security interest, and processing and customer service goals. The fee schedule was last adjusted in November 2010. In its most recent review, USCIS determined that maintaining the current fee levels would result in a $560 million average annual shortfall. In response to this finding, the proposed fee increases would allow USCIS to continue to support itself and account for the costs of processing fee-exempt applications, increased refugee processing, and administration of the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program and the Office of Citizenship, says DHS.
The fee increases will be implemented as a weighted average increase of 21 percent overall, so the amount of the fee increase will vary by application type, with a few rare fees seeing no change and others seeing significant surges. The following fee adjustments are proposed for some of the most common applications:
Click here to view table.
*This amount includes the mandatory $85 biometrics services fee and no additional fee for concurrently filed Forms I-765 and I-131.
In addition to the overall fee hike, in the interest of increasing access to citizenship, the proposed rule implements a tiered fee option for the Application for Naturalization (Form N-400). Although the application fee will increase from $595 to $640, a reduced fee option of $320 will be available for applicants whose family income falls between 150% and 200% of the Federal Poverty Lines. Fee exemptions for naturalization for certain applicants with U.S. military service or with an approved fee waiver will remain in place as well.
Those involved with investor visas should note that the rule also applies a new fee of $3,035 to the Annual Certification (Form I-924A) for employment-based immigrant visas in the fifth preference (EB-5), which currently has no fee.
The proposed rule also contains provisions that would allow USCIS to require any benefits applicant to appear for a biometrics appointment (and request the fee for biometrics, which will remain at $85) and to reject applications filed with dishonored checks or without biometric services fees until payments are corrected.
If adopted, the new filing fee schedule would apply for a minimum of 2 years.
At this time, applications relating to immigrant and nonimmigrant visa processes that are filed with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) do not require fees. However, it is possible that the DOL could institute fees for these applications in the future, impacting the overall cost of employment-based immigration sponsorship.