In November 2019, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) rolled out new rate plans for virtually all of its services, including immigrant, nonimmigrant, citizenship, and other related fees. These new fees are expected to go into effect in early 2020.
The new fee plan is an attempt to deal with the roughly $1.3 million budget deficit that the USCIS deals with every year. Across the board, the fees will increase by approximately 21%, but certain application fees are experiencing much higher increases compared to others.
Why Are Fees Changing?
Unlike most government agencies, the USCIS is funded by application and petition fees. Federal laws that affect USCIS require that they re-evaluate and adjust fees on an annual basis. Adjustments help USCIS to cover the actual costs of processing applications and petitions, paying employees, and dealing with other expenses. It also helps create and maintain the necessary infrastructure to support immigration-related activities.
Just like a business, USCIS must adjust its fees to account for demand and cost to analyze and process each application. Their last fee update was in 2017. There was no update in 2018 or 2019, which is perhaps why the USCIS is operating at a large deficit in 2019.
Application Fee Changes
(Note: The fee changes discussed below are the proposed changes. We expect these to be the actual new fee amounts, but there is a chance that USCIS may change the amounts at any time.
Some of the fee increases are substantial. For example, the fee for an Application for Suspension of Deportation or Special Rule of Cancellation of Expulsion (Form I-881) is jumping to $1,800 per family from its previous cost of $285 per person or $570 per family. That is an increase of over 500% for individuals.
Some of the more common USCIS applications are increasing by much lower amounts. For instance, Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, is increasing by 20%, from $410 to $490. This $80 change is not likely to have a significant effect on the number of applications for this form.
Other application costs are decreasing slightly. A Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, is decreasing by 22%. It will decrease from $700 to $545.
Asylum seekers will also see a change. They have never been charged any fees to submit an application for asylum. However, the new fee changes require a $50 fee for each application. With this new change, there could be a significant portion of asylum-seekers who cannot afford to have their application processed.
USCIS Process Changes
Along with fee changes, the USCIS is also changing some of its processes as well. These changes will also affect the overall costs of processing applications, and from a potential applicant’s standpoint, these changes are likely not for the better.
For example, USCIS is changing premium processing so that applications must be processed within 15 business days, rather than 15 calendar days. Slower processing times will decrease costs, but will increase waiting times for applicants in general.
USCIS also requires separate fees for items that were processed concurrently in the past. Work authorizations and travel documents, for example, can no longer be filed together in some cases, and different fees apply to each of these applications.
Getting Help with Fee Changes and Navigating the U.S. Immigration System
These implemented changes from the USCIS are likely to make the process slower and more expensive for immigrants processing applications. For more information about these changes and how they might affect you, contact the experienced immigration lawyers from David Hirson & Partners, LLP.