USCIS to Raise Filing Fees: Filers to Pay More and Service Delivered Declines
Dallas, TX (Law Firm Newswire) January 28, 2020 – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has proposed to make significant increases to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) filing fees. The new rule would impact filings for many different immigration services, ranging from applications for asylum to naturalization.
A notice on the proposed fee hike was posted in the Federal Register on November 14, 2019. DHS has extended the deadline for the public comment period from December 16 to December 30, 2019, to allow stakeholders more time to provide input.
“The proposed new fees would nearly double for naturalization applicants, for employers seeking to employ guest workers, or for employers seeking to transfer upper level personnel from abroad into related U.S. companies, in addition to a host of other fee increases,” commented Stewart Rabinowitz of the Dallas and Frisco law firm of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. “This is at a time when USCIS requires massive documentation beyond its own regulatory requirements for most cases, causing significant delays in nearly all case adjudications without improving process integrity, effectively raising the standard of proof beyond that required by case law. It also seeks to transfer about $200 million from user paid benefits fees to ICE for enforcement functions, which is contrary to its user funded mission. With fees reaching the $1,000+ range for some poor applicants, the real question here is the actual goal of these new fees: to recoup additional expenses, or to deter filings, or both.”
Existing fees for immigration-related applications are expected to increase by an average of 21 percent under the proposal. The fee change will not have equal impact on all immigration services. DHS is also implementing new fees for certain benefit requests and eliminating some fee waivers.
As an example, USCIS proposed to increase naturalization filings from $640 to $1,170. An H-1B petition fee alone will be increased 22 percent to $560, not counting a required $500 anti-fraud fee, nor a $1,500 Special Education fee, nor a $1,440 Premium Processing fee that U.S. employers would pay for high skilled workers in short supply.
USCIS announced its plans to increase fees amid burgeoning petition backlogs and processing delays. The proposed new fees are designed to mitigate an estimated $1.3 billion shortage in the agency’s annual funding. Despite the shortfall, the concept of user paid fees for services provided at some point may rise to a point where for many applicants, USCIS fees may become unaffordable.