USCIS Overhauls Fees After Budget Concerns

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a proposed rule (which would change fees for immigration applications and petitions) in the Federal Register on June 11, 2010. Recently, the USCIS announced a final rule on the matter, allowing the public to comment on the proposed changes. The changes will see average fees increased by 10% for most immigration applications, although the naturalization application will not see any fee increases. The new fees will go into effect 23 November 2010.

The new changes will see the creation of three new fees as well as increased fees. The new fees will include a fee for applicants pursuing civil surgeon designation, a new fee for regional center designations via the EB-5 (Immigrant Investor) Program, and a fee to for processing Department of State-granted visas.

While many of the changes will see additional fees or new fees, however, some immigration applicants will see reduced fees under the changes. For example, as of 23 November 2010, some veterans and service members with the US military applying for citizenship benefits will not have to pay fees. As well, under the new changes, the USCIS has expanded its fee waivers. Specific petitions and applications which will now see reduced fees include: Petition for Alien Fiancé (USCIS Form I-129F); Application to Adjust Status from Temporary to Permanent Resident (USCIS Form I-698); Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (USCIS Form I-539); Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document (USCIS Form N-565); Application for Family Unity Benefits (USCIS Form I-817); and Application for Travel Document (USCIS Form I-131).

Under the new fees, some applicants will be paying significantly more. For example, those filing Application for Status as a Temporary Resident under Sections 245A or 210 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (USCIS Form I-687) will see filing fees jump from $710 to $1,130. Applicants filing Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions (USCIS Form I-829) will now need to pay $3,750 instead of the current $2,850 fee. Applicants filing Application for Regional Center under the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program (USCIS Form I-924) currently do not pay any filing changes but will have to pay $6,230 in fees after the new fee changes take effect. The USCIS website has a full list of the changes to each form.

The changes in fees will help the USCIS perform its job better. The USCIS sees about 90% of its budget coming from fees paid by petitioners and applicants completing immigration forms. The increase in fees, therefore, will help the USCIS raise additional revenues and will therefore allow the USCIS to offer more services as well as more effective services. The changed fees also come after a customary biannual review of the USCIS revenues found that revenues were low for 2008 and 2009 and were projected to remain low for 2010. The USCIS hopes that the added revenue from the new increases in fees will help bridge the gap between fee revenues and needed USCIS revenues.