The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on January 3, 2023, that would increase the cost of benefit request fees for immigration and naturalization benefits. It states that these fees would enable USCIS to provide timely processing and avoid an accumulation of backlogs. Ninety-six percent of the agency’s funding comes from filing fees.
The proposed adjustments come after a comprehensive review of fee structures, which have stayed the same since 2016. The current amounts do not cover the agency’s overhead. The USCIS reviews fee rules every two years. During the review, it also considers federally mandated pay raises, the need for more staffing, humanitarian programs, and other areas.
In the case of the recent review, the agency was also recovering from a depletion of cash reserves caused by a 40% drop in applications during the pandemic. A temporary hiring freeze and workforce attrition also thinned the agency’s ranks. These factors left it ill-equipped to deal with the post-pandemic surge in applications.
Slight increase in immigration and naturalization
It claims that the increases will be modest for specific naturalization applications. It will preserve or remove existing low-income and vulnerable population fee waivers and add new fee exemptions for some humanitarian programs. If the changes go through after a 60-day period of public comment, the changes would slightly increase (19%, going from $640 to $760) or decrease fees for an estimated 1 million low-income filers.
A big change for work visas
Those applying for work visas are not as fortunate:
- Green card applicants would see an increase in fees, including 130% for I-485 with I-765 and I-131. There would be separate fees to visa applicants for optional travel and work permits, which have been free of charge.
- Those trying to adjust their status from inside the U.S. would see the fee double from $1,760 to over $3,500.
- Those seeking to have conditions removed from their visa would see a 101% fee increase.
- There will be no more discounts for children or marriage visas, which will significantly increase the cost of families coming to the U.S. so a parent can work.
There is some good news, with 1-90s renewals going down 14% (paper) or 16% (electronically).