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December 09, 2019

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USCIS Proposes Significant Fee Hikes

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has proposed a new fee schedule designed to mitigate an approximate $1.3 billion shortfall in the annual budget of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). According to DHS, immigration fees would increase by a weighted average of 21 percent across the board. In reality, however, the fee changes would not affect all immigration benefits equally. Fees for some commonly used classifications are set to go up significantly. Fees for petitions for L visas, for example, would increase by 77 percent.

The following is a sample of the fee changes proposed for some of the most commonly used business immigration forms.

Immigration Form Current Fee Proposed Fee Difference in Cost Percentage Change
I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status $1,140 (the $85 biometrics fee is charged separately) $1,120 -$20 -2
I-765, Application for Employment Authorization $410 $490 +$80 +20
I-131, Application for Travel Document $575 $585 +$10 +2
N-400, Application for Naturalization $640 $1,170 +$530 +83
I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker $700 $545 -$155 -22
I-129H1, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker: H-1 Classification (H-1B, H-1B1) $460 $560 +$100 +22
I-129L, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker: L Classification (L-1A, L-1B, Blanket L) $460 $815 +$355 +77
I-129E&TN, Application for Nonimmigrant Worker: E or TN Classification $460 $705    
I-129O, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker: O Classification $460 $715 +$255 +55
I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Renewal) $0 $275 +$275 N/A (USCIS has never charged a fee for Form I-821D.)

Additional Changes

If formalized, the proposed rule would impact more than immigration fees. DHS has also announced the following process changes:

Premium Processing

  • DHS is seeking to extend the premium processing timeframe so that USCIS has 15 business days to process petitions/applications, as opposed to 15 calendar DHS states that this will allow the agency more time to process files and may eliminate the need to suspend premium processing when requests are high.
  • The premium processing fee is already scheduled to increase from $1,410 to $1,440 on December 2, 2019. No additional fee changes for premium processing are included in the revised fee schedule.

Nonimmigrant Visas

  • Instead of a single Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker that can be used for multiple visa classifications (such as H-1B, L, E, TN, etc.), there will be several forms, each one for a specific visa classification (as identified in the chart above). DHS’s rationale for the new forms is that “it will simplify or consolidate the information requirements for petitioners and applicants as well as better reflect the cost to adjudicate each specific … classification.”
  • The different Form I-129 form types will each have a distinct fee.
  • If a Form I-129 is filed for a worker who is present in the United States, the petitioner must provide the worker’s domestic address when completing the form. (This was previously not required.)
  • The Form I-129L will distinguish between L-1A managers and L-1A executives, instead of just differentiating between L-1A and L-1B designations, as it does currently.

Adjustments of Status

  • DHS will now require applicants to pay separate fees to apply for work authorization and travel documents, even if filing concurrently with Form I-485. Presently, the I-765 and I-131 forms (employment authorization document (EAD) and advance parole (AP)) may be filed concurrently with an I-485 for no additional fee. EAD/AP renewals have also historically been exempt from a filing fee.
  • The requirement to pay separate fees will be phased in according to the chart below (assuming Form I-485 is still pending):
Date I-485 Filed Payment of Separate Fees Required?
Before July 30, 2007 Yes
After July 30, 2007, but before the proposed rule takes effect No
After the proposed rule takes effect Yes
  • The total fee for filing Form I-485 with all benefits, including EAD/AP, plus biometrics will be $2,195, as opposed to the $1,225 it currently costs—an increase of 79 percent.
  • The proposed base fee for Form I-485 will apply to all applicants, including children under the age of 14 who are filing with their parents. (The current fee for such children is $750.)

Biometric Services Fees

  • A biometric services fee will be incorporated into the filing fee for the underlying benefit and will no longer be charged as a separate fee, in most cases.
  • The biometric services fee will remain a separate fee for those applying for temporary protected status (TPS).

Moving Forward

The proposed fee schedule and related changes have no immediate effect; the rule must proceed through the federal rulemaking process before it can be finalized. The proposed rule is open for public comment through December 16, 2019.

© 2019, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., All Rights Reserved.

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About this Author

Melissa Manna, Ogletree Deakins Law Firm, Raleigh, Immigration Practice Group Writer
Immigration Practice Group Writer

Melissa Manna is an Immigration Practice Group Writer. Her primary focus is writing and editing legal articles relating to immigration for the firm’s online and print publications, websites, and newsletters.

Prior to joining Ogletree Deakins, Melissa spent 9 years as in-house counsel at TowerCo, one of the largest independent wireless tower companies in the U.S., representing the company in all aspects of commercial real estate. During that time she managed due diligence, advised and implemented risk management solutions, and closed transactions...

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