The Department of Homeland Security released the Proposed Rule of the USCIS Fee Schedule yesterday. According to the Proposal, the increase in fees are intended to cover shortages in the Immigration Examination Fee Account (IEFA). The fees are used to meet certain national security, customer service, and adjudicative processing goals. The Proposal details how they have used the fees in the past, such as, for example, the Electronic Immigration System (ELIS) and improving processing times,
I intend to bullet point several interesting changes here but I, unfortunately, will not be able to cover the entire 38-page report. For the entire publication, click here. Please note that USCIS is taking comments now through July 5, 2016. You may email comments directly to USCIS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some of the places where USCIS is proposing fee changes are:
- A standard filing fee increase for Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, from $595 to $640.
- H-1B and L-1 visa petitions filed by petitioners who employ 50 or more employees in the US with more than 50% of those employees in H-1B or L-1 status are subject to fees of $4,000 and $4,500, respectively. Please note that although this is mentioned in the report, USCIS has been collecting these fees for all petitions received after December 18, 2015.
- A new fee of $3,035 to recover the full cost of processing the EB-5 Annual Certification of Regional Centers.
As a side note, I twitted a couple of days ago that the Regional Center Program is set to expire in September 2016. Since they are proposing to implement a new fee for the Regional Center Annual Certification, perhaps they intend to re-authorize the program. Follow me @ZLImmigration as I closely track this development. But I digress...
Despite the fee increases, USCIS maintains that the following reduced or no cost options are still available for qualified foreign nationals:
- No naturalization fee for applicants who meet the requirements of sections 328 or 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) with respect to military service.
- Reduced fee of $320 for naturalization applicants with family income greater than 150 percent and not more than 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.
- Adjudication, naturalization, and similar services may be offered without charge to asylum applicants.
- Certain foreign nationals are exempted from visa fees, for example, those seeking T nonimmigrant status or U nonimmigrant status.
- Those who meet the HHS Poverty Guidelines provided in Form I-912P and files and obtains approval for Form I-912.
Of course, the downside is that the costs of offering and operating these immigration benefits must be recovered from somewhere else. Do you think the social benefits are worth the costs?