USCIS Proposes Raising Immigration Filing Fees

Plan includes splitting temporary-worker petition into different forms with varying fees

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer November 15, 2019
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​U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) proposed Nov. 14 to increase several immigration benefit filing fees for employers and to separate the Form I-129 petition for temporary workers into different forms with different fees for each visa classification.

The agency proposed adjusting fees by an average increase of 21 percent, the same average increase it reached in 2016, the last time fees were increased.

Unlike most government agencies, USCIS is fee-funded. According to the agency, the proposed fees account for increased costs to adjudicate immigration benefit requests; deter immigration fraud; and vet applicants, petitioners and beneficiaries.

"USCIS is required to examine incoming and outgoing expenditures, just like a business, and make adjustments based on that analysis," said Kenneth Cuccinelli, acting director of USCIS. "This proposed adjustment in fees would ensure more applicants cover the true cost of their applications and minimizes subsidies from an already overextended system."

Keeping the fees as they are would leave the agency underfunded by approximately $1.3 billion per year, he added.

The revised fees won't take effect until the proposal goes through the federal rulemaking process, which includes a 30-day public comment period ending Dec. 13.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Understanding and Obtaining U.S. Employment Visas]

New Forms, Fees for Temporary Workers

USCIS is proposing to split up Form I-129—used by employers to petition for guest workers under the H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, L-1, O and TN visa classifications—into different forms with different fees imposed on each visa type. The current base fee of $460 covers all temporary-worker visa petitions.

By splitting the form and proposing several different fees, USCIS believes "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 agency pointed out that the same fee is paid regardless of how many workers are sought in the petition, the type of worker sought, whether an employee is identified, and how long it takes to review and process the different visa types.

Filing fees would increase for guest-worker petitions by the following amounts:

 

Visa TypeCurrent FeeProposed FeePercentage Change
H-1B visa$460$56022%
L-1 visa$460$81577%
O visa$460$71555%
TN visa$460$70553%

 

Employers seeking to hire workers under the H-2A and H-2B visa programs must name the workers when the petition is filed for someone from a country not designated as eligible to participate in the programs or for a worker who is already in the United States.

USCIS estimates that it requires less time and resources to adjudicate a petition with unnamed workers than one with named workers because the agency runs background checks on named workers. Filing fees would change for these guest-worker petitions by the following amounts:

 

Visa TypeCurrent FeeProposed FeePercentage Change
H-2A, named worker$460$86087%
H-2A, unnamed worker$460$425-8%
H-2B, named worker$460$72558%
H-2B, unnamed worker$460$395-14%

 

USCIS is also proposing to add to the extra fees that employers with a high proportion of H-1B and L-1 workers pay. If an employer has more than 50 employees and over 50 percent of them are in H-1B or L-1 status, the employer must pay an additional $4,000 for each initial and change-of-employer H-1B petition and $4,500 for each initial and change-of-employer L-1 petition. In addition to those fees, which are earmarked to fund a biometric entry-exit screening system, affected employers would pay the same amounts for each extension petition they file.

New Fees for Adjustment of Status Applications

Currently, individuals seeking to adjust their status from temporary to permanent pay a filing fee of $1,225, which covers the adjustment application as well as applications for employment authorization and travel documents and any future renewals for those documents while the adjustment case is pending. USCIS is seeking to eliminate this package fee and instead require separate fees for new and renewed documents. Under the proposal, the cost to file an adjustment application will increase to $2,195 and applicants will be required to pay fees of $490 for each employment authorization document renewal and $585 for each travel document renewal.

Proposed Changes to Premium Processing

The fee paid by employers for 15-day expedited processing of petitions for temporary and permanent foreign national workers is slated to increase from $1,410 to $1,440 on Dec. 2.

USCIS is also proposing lengthening the premium processing period from 15 calendar days to 15 business days, effectively prolonging the period by one week.

"In certain instances, USCIS has been unable to accomplish the required 15-day response due to the high volume of incoming petitions and a significant surge in premium processing requests," the agency said. "The proposed change from 15 calendar days to 15 business days will provide USCIS additional time to complete the necessary processing on a premium processing petition and issue a decision. The additional time may also reduce the need for USCIS to suspend premium processing when request filing volumes are high."

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