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The effective date for the previously announced hike in filing fees for many immigration and naturalization applications and petitions will be Dec. 23, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
After a review of costs, USCIS said it found that an adjustment of fees "is necessary to fully recover costs for USCIS services and to maintain adequate service." Fees will increase by an overall average of 21 percent.
"We are mindful of the effect fee increases have on many of the customers we serve," said USCIS Director Leon Rodríguez. "That's why we decided against raising fees as recommended after the fiscal year 2012 and 2014 fee reviews. However, as an agency dependent upon users' fees to operate, these changes are now necessary to ensure we can continue to serve our customers effectively."
USCIS is primarily funded—95 percent—by immigration and naturalization benefit request fees charged to applicants and petitioners. The agency's remaining funding comes from a small discretionary appropriation. Fees were last overhauled in 2010.
The highest fee increases will impact U.S. employers that bring college-educated workers to the country, as well as immigrant investors.
The agency is enacting a 42 percent increase in the fee for filing Form I-129, which is used for H-1B professional and L-1 intracompany transfer visas (from $325 to $460).
USCIS is also enacting a 21 percent increase in the fee for filing Form I-140, which is used to request that a foreign worker become a permanent resident in the U.S. (from $580 to $700).
The steepest fee hikes are aimed at the EB-5 visa program, which provides green cards to foreign residents who invest significant money in a U.S. business and create jobs for U.S. workers. USCIS is preparing to raise the fee for filing Form I-526 by 145 percent, from $1,500 to $3,675. Entities seeking designation as EB-5 regional centers, which allow immigrants to pool their investments, will see a 186 percent increase in the fee for filing Form I-924, from $6,230 to $17,795.
As of January 2016, there were 790 USCIS-approved regional centers, according to the agency. Approved regional centers are currently required to annually file the supplementary Form I-924A to demonstrate continued eligibility. USCIS is setting a brand-new $3,035 filing fee for this form to cover the "significant costs" associated with administering the often complex program.
Premium processing fees, which guarantee agency adjudication of employment-based petitions and applications within an accelerated time frame, will remain at $1,225.
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