Proposed Adjustment of Certain Immigration and Naturalization Fees
On January 3, 2023, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a proposal to adjust certain immigration and naturalization benefit request fees. These new fees would allow USCIS to more fully recover its operating costs, reestablish and maintain timely case processing, and prevent the accumulation of future case backlogs.
USCIS receives a majority of its funding from filing fees, not from congressional appropriations. Thus, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a dramatic reduction in receipts of new applications, resulting in a temporary drop in revenue by 40 percent. The combination of depleted cash reserves, a temporary hiring freeze, and workforce attrition has reduced the agency’s capacity to timely adjudicate cases, particularly as incoming caseloads rebound to pre-pandemic levels.
The proposed rule would increase some fees, including a modest increase in the fee for certain naturalization applications, while preserving existing fee waiver eligibility for low-income and vulnerable populations and adding new fee exemptions for certain humanitarian programs. If finalized, the proposed rule would decrease or minimally increase fees for more than one million low-income filers each year.
New measures include a proposal to:
- Incorporate biometrics costs into the main benefit fee and remove the separate biometric services fee;
- Establish separate fees for each nonimmigrant classification covered by Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Workers;
- Change the premium processing timeframe from 15 calendar days to 15 business days;
- Requiring separate filing fees for Form I-485 and associated Form I-131 and Form I-765 filings; and
- Institute lower fees for certain forms filed online.
The proposed rule would not change fee waiver eligibility requirements. The projected revenues resulting from the proposed rule would allow USCIS to increase the number of adjudicators processing applications, implement technology improvements, and increase support provided to individuals seeking information and assistance from USCIS.
It is important to note that fees will not change until the final rule goes into effect, after the public has had the opportunity to comment and USCIS finalizes the fee schedule in response to such comments. USCIS will host a public engagement session on the proposed fee rule on January 11, 2023.
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