Facing a stubborn backlog and an influx of immigrants seeking refuge, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) proposed a rule featuring a new fee schedule in January 2023. The proposed fee schedule includes sharp increases in fees for H-1B visas, green cards, and naturalization.
USCIS has deferred the final ruling on the fees until early 2024. The steep increases are worthy of your attention now, as you can save much money by filing for your green card or naturalization before the fees rise.
Why Immigration Fees Are Rising
USCIS’s current fees went into effect on December 23, 2016. Fees fund 96 percent of the agency’s expenses.
The Covid-19 pandemic slowed petitions and caused a temporary 40% decrease in revenue. A hiring freeze and work force attrition crippled USCIS’s ability to process applications in a timely manner.
On top of the backlog, conflicts in several areas of the world – Afghanistan, Ukraine, Venezuela, and now Gaza/Israel – have increased the number of people seeking asylum.
To eliminate the backlog and process visas as well as asylum and refugee requests on a timely basis, USCIS seeks to hire 7,778 people and invest in technology and call center upgrades.
Funding those efforts will require an additional $1.9 billion per year USCIS estimates. The proposed steep fee increases fulfill that need.
Fee Increases Not Official Yet, But Likely
During the two-month comment period for the proposed rule, over 6,000 individuals and organizations criticized the proposed fee increases. USCIS postponed their final ruling until early 2024.
We in the immigration law community anticipate the ruling as soon as December, with an effective date 60-90 days afterward.
If enacted as proposed, H-1B cap registration fees would increase a whopping 2050% from $10 to $215. H-1B petition filing fees would rise from $460 to $780, a 70% increase.
Naturalization application fees will rise from $725 to $760, a 5% increase, while green card application fees will increase 26% from $1,225 to $1,540.
I-485 Adjustment applicants may face a much greater increase, however, if they also file for employment authorization and travel documents. USCIS currently waives fees for those two documents if a green card application is pending.
The new schedule implements separate document pricing, adding $555 for employment authorization (up from $410 now) and $630 for travel documents (up from $575 now). The net effect for someone seeking a green card, employment authorization, and travel documents will be a total fee of $2,820, a 130% increase from the current cost ($1,225).
Apply Now to Save Money
I’d like to think USCIS would mitigate their increase requests based on the criticism they received, but I am a realist. Fees will likely rise as proposed or close to that.
That likelihood prompted two European clients of mine who knew they wanted to become naturalized citizens to file their forms this fall.
If you know you want to file for naturalization or a green card, please do it as soon as possible to avoid the fee increases.
Please call me at 630-262-1435 if you have any questions or would like to initiate an application.