On May 29, 2007, USCIS announced a final fee structure that includes benefits for some families with children and also expands the availability of fee waivers and exemptions. The rule sets fees for the processing of immigration benefit applications and petitions and includes some substantive revisions from the proposal published in February of this year. USCIS notes that with the new fee schedule, its fees are being raised by an average of 66 percent. According to USCIS, the fee increase is intended to provide necessary funding for the agency to continue strengthening the security and integrity of the immigration system, improving customer service, and modernizing business operations for the 21st century.

Some of the new fees include: $325 (up from the current fee of $190) for Form I-129 (used for H-1B and L petitions); $475 (up from the current fee of $195) for Form I-140, Immigrant Petition; and $1010 (up from the current fee of $395) for Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status; $340 (up from the current fee of $180) for Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization; and $305 (up from the current fee of $170) for Form I-131, Application for Travel Documents.

Key revisions in the final rule include a 25 percent reduction to the proposed filing fee for Form I-485 (Adjustment of Status to Permanent Resident) for children 14 years old or younger, which will be $600 under the new fee schedule. The rule will also permit a one-time free extension of approved orphan petitions for prospective adoptive parents, and expands the availability of fee waivers for some adjustment of status cases that arise from asylum or other humanitarian categories, and certain juvenile immigrants. USCIS will also exempt “Special Immigrant – Juveniles” from the $375 filing fee for Form I-360 (Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant). Finally, USCIS will be able to waive the $80 biometric fee, in addition to the application/petition fee, on an individual basis.

The final rule retains the fee exemption for T visas (Victims of Human Trafficking), self-petitioners seeking immigrant classification under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) for humanitarian reasons, and refugee and asylum applicants. It also allows USCIS to waive the filing fee for U.S. citizens seeking immigrant status for their alien spouses (K-3 visas) and will continue to waive fees for members of the U.S. Armed Forces applying for naturalization.

USCIS expects that the revenue from the new fee structure will lead to a 20 percent reduction in average application processing times by the end of fiscal year 2009, and will cut processing times by the end of fiscal year 2008 for four key forms: I-90 (Renew / Replace Permanent Resident Card), I-140 (Immigration Petition for Alien Worker), I-485, and N-400 (Naturalization). These four application types represent one-third of all applications filed.

The rule was scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on May 30, and the new fee structure becomes effective on July 30, 2007.