USA: USCIS seeks immigration filing fee increase

The Department of Homeland Security is proposing increases in the filing fees for many USCIS petitions and applications. The proposed regulation would raise the fees for most employment-based petitions and applications by an average of 21%, though fee increases for some filings would be significantly higher. According to DHS, the higher fees reflect the current cost of processing immigration applications and petitions; some portion of the increased fees would provide additional funding for refugee and citizenship programs as well as system support for inter-agency immigration status verification databases.

The filing fee for Form I-129, the non-immigrant worker petition, would increase to $460, from $325.  The fee for Form I-140, the immigrant worker petition, would increase to $700, from $580.

Applications under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program would be subject to the most substantial fee increases.  Regional Centres applying for designation under the program would pay a filing fee of $17,795, up from $6,230. They would pay an annual fee of $3,035 to certify their continued eligibility for the designation; currently, there is no fee for the annual certification.  The fee for the immigrant investor petition would more than double, though the fee for an investor’s petition to remove conditions on residence would be unchanged. 

The proposed rule would also introduce a three-tiered fee structure for naturalisation applicants – a standard filing fee for most applicants, a reduced fee for those whose family income is greater than 150% but less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, and no fee for certain applicants in the military and others who qualify for a fee waiver.  

DHS is seeking feedback on the proposed fee schedule, and public comments will be accepted for 60 days from its publication on May 5, 2016.  Increases to USCIS filing fees would not take effect until the regulation clears the federal approval process, which typically takes several months.   

What This Means for Employers

If the proposed fee changes are implemented, employers and foreign nationals would see higher fees for most employment-based petitions and applications for employment authorisation and adjustment of status to permanent residence. Employers should take the proposed fee schedule into consideration when budgeting for immigration-related expenses.