On Jan. 4, 2023, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a Proposed Rule that would increase the filing fees required for many applications, with the majority being employment-based applications. As the United States may enter a recession in the coming months, this announcement may raise concerns among employers already anticipating challenges in 2023. Among the most notable and significant increases are:
- the H-1B lottery registration fee increasing from $10 to $215,
- the intracompany transfer I-129 L filing fee more than tripling from $460 to $1,385,
- the specialized knowledge worker I-129 H-1 filing fee increasing from $460 to $780,
- the seasonal worker I-129 H-2B filing fee more than doubling from $460 to $1,080,
- the extraordinary ability I-129 O filing fee also more than doubling from $460 to $1,055,
- the nonimmigrant investor I-526 filing fee rising from $3,675 to $11,160,
- the immigrant removal of conditions of investor I-829 filing fee increasing from $3,835 to $9,525, and
- the I-485 Adjustment of Status (green card application) filed with the I-765 Employment Authorization Document and I-131 Advance Parole (travel authorization) filing fee increasing from $1,225 to $2,820.
The proposed fee increases would also impact individuals already facing an immigration system which requires them to endure months, and often years, of waiting for applications to be processed. Individuals applying for immigration benefits for themselves, or their loved ones, could see the following:
- the green card for a family member I-130 filing fee raising from $535 to $820,
- the fiancé(e) I-129 application filing fee growing from $535 to $720,
- the petition to remove conditions from green card status I-751 filing fee climbing from $595 to $1,195,
- the stand-alone Employment Authorization Document I-765 filing fee increasing from $410 to $650 for paper filings,
- the request to change or extend nonimmigrant status (without biometrics) I-539 filing fee increasing from $370 to $620 for paper filings, and
- the genealogy records request online filing fee more than tripling from $65 to $240.
If the proposed rule goes into effect, USCIS anticipates it will receive an additional $5.2 billion per year during FY2022 and 2023. This amount does not include income from premium processing filing fees that will remain $2,500 per application. With these additional funds, USCIS states it would increase staff, cover increased contract costs, maintain and refresh its technology, improve its customer service, and spend more on its asylum and refugee programs.
Because USCIS’ budget is derived from its receipt of filing fees from immigration applications, not on funding from the federal government, USCIS claims the fee increases are necessary to address a lack of fee increases since 2016 as well as a temporary reduction in the filing of applications during the pandemic. The reductions in filings resulted in a loss of 40% of USCIS anticipated income.
In addition to significantly increasing filing fees as the country is already feeling the effects of increased costs in many other areas, the proposed rule would also impact USCIS processing time of applications. If the proposed rule is adopted, USCIS would extend the time it has to process applications filed under the premium processing program from 15 calendar days to 15 business days. This change would require applicants to wait roughly one-third longer for the processing of applications for which they pay an extra $2,500 filing fee. This may create challenges considering that in many instances employers must file using the premium processing program to avoid lengthy normal processing times which would otherwise prohibit them from achieving business goals.
The proposed rule would also incorporate the currently separate biometrics fees into the main filing fee. While this would provide an administrative relief for applicants, it also guarantees USCIS a receipt of funds for biometrics services it often waives applicants from completing. In other instances, the proposed rule would re-implement administrative and financial obligations on applicants by requiring additional filing fees for I-765 (employment authorization) and I-131 (travel authorization) applications accompanying an I-485 (adjustment of status/green card) application.
Also noteworthy, the proposed rule would encourage online filings by reducing the filing fee by $10 to $100 for some online applicants. This change would support USCIS’ at least decade old commitment to electronic filings. However, without an expansion of the applications that can be filed electronically, it would only benefit a small minority of applicants.
It remains unclear when USCIS intends to implement the final rule after the 60-day comment period has concluded. If USCIS attempts to quickly implement the final rule, employers participating in the H-1B registration this year would likely be among the first to feel the impact of the fee increases and it could have consequences on the H-1B visa applicant pool. USCIS will host a public engagement session to discuss the proposed rule on Jan. 11, 2023.