The United States Immigrations and Citizenship Services (USCIS) agency has published a proposal that would increase the fees most immigration applicants pay. Among the reasons for this increase, USCIS cites the insufficient revenue collected from petitioners to cover the high workload they have. USCIS funds 96% of their operations through costumer fees and not from Congressional funds, therefore the imbalance between costs and revenue will be addressed through an increase in what applicants pay.
The timeline for the USCIS fees increase
USCIS will publish the proposal in the Federal Register on January 4, 2023. After that date there will be a 60 day period for getting public comments. This period will end on March 6, 2023 at 11:59 PM EST. After this date, the final rule will need to be published before it comes into effect. The exact date for its enactment is still to be determined.
Can you make a comment to the proposed increased fees?
Yes, the public can comment on the proposal. USCIS states that “The public should visit https://www.regulations.gov, and type “Docket No. USCIS-2021-0010” in the search bar and follow the prompts to submit comments. Note that the comment period closes at 11:59 pm, Eastern Time, on the last day of the comment period.”
The main changes to the current system
USCIS is planning to increase revenue from $3.3 billion to $5.2 billion per year, without taking Premium Processing into consideration. That is a $1.9 billion difference, or a 58% increase in the budget! Below are the main targets of this additional money:
- More hiring. USCIS plans to hire 7,778 employees to meet the demands of the agency. This accounts for $1.2 billion, more than 60% of the overall increase in revenue.
- Pay rises to USCIS employees approved by Congress, or about 8% of the additional budget.
- Contract cost increases, about 5% of the extra money.
- Other items
Fee increase in EB-2 NIW green card applications
USCIS fee increases for Adjustment of Status (AOS)
The EB2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) category would be significantly impacted, especially on the Adjustment of Status side. The filing fee for I-485 or adjustment of status, would go from $1,225 including biometrics fee to $2,190 per person. This is a 26% increase! However, the biggest increase would happen if an applicant wants to file I-765 (Employment Authorization) and I-131 (Travel Document) while filing the I-485 form, which is currently common. Under today’s fee schedule, those two forms are at no extra cost when filing them together with adjustment of status. However, under the new system each form must be paid independetly. This would increase the adjustment of status with the 2 additional forms from $1,225 per person to $2,820 per person. This is a 130$ increase in fees!
Increase in Adjustment of Status fees for children under 14
Another impact from the proposed fees is the elimination of a special discounted fee for children. Currently, children under 14 only pay $750 per applicant when adjusting status based on the approved petition of a parent. Under the proposed rules, children would pay the same as adults, causing their fee to increase $790 to $1,540.
Case studies for Adjustment of Status fee increase
USCIS fee increase for I-140 form
Contrary to the adjustment of status fees, the I-140 filing fee would go up only slightly. The cost would increase from the current $700 per petition to $715. This $15 increase is just a 2% raise, which is very little compared to the 26 to 130% increase in fees for adjustment of status.
The table below summarizes the main increases for forms relevant to EB2 NIW:
Minor changes to Premium Processing
The fees paid to apply for Premium Processing are not going to change. Currently, an applicant can pay $2,500 to expedite their case and obtain an answer to the petition in 15 or 45 days depending on the type of petition. USCIS is not changing this amount in their proposal. However, they are proposing to change the definition of “days” and move away from their promise of 15 calendar days. This definition will be replaced by business days.
As a reminder, premium processing is not currently fully available for EB2 NIW petitioners. USCIS is working on implementing this expedited method in this green card category and this could be achieved during 2023 but it is yet to be seen.
Conclusion: act now on your DIY petition!
If you are thinking of filing a green card application, this is a good time to focus on your petition and get it ready before the new proposal is enacted. If you file before March 2023 you will still pay the current fees but after March the fees are likely to increase. It is still too early to know the exact date, and it is also possible that some proposed changes are modified in the final rule.