USCIS Proposes Adjustments to Immigration and Naturalization Fees

WASHINGTON—U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) outlining adjustments to certain immigration and naturalization benefit request fees. The proposed fees aim to enable USCIS to more comprehensively cover its operating costs, reinstate and maintain efficient case processing, and prevent future case backlogs. USCIS relies on filing fees for approximately 96 percent of its funding, not from congressional appropriations.

This proposed fee rule follows a thorough fee review at USCIS, revealing that the current fees, unchanged since 2016, inadequately cover the agency’s operational expenses. USCIS typically publishes a fee rule biennially, proposing changes to accommodate the expansion of humanitarian programs, federally mandated pay raises, additional staffing requirements, and other essential investments.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 led to a substantial reduction in new application receipts, causing a temporary 40 percent decline in revenue. The combination of depleted cash reserves, a temporary hiring freeze, and workforce attrition has impeded the agency’s ability to promptly adjudicate cases, especially with incoming caseloads returning to pre-pandemic levels.

The proposed rule suggests fee increases, including a modest raise for certain naturalization applications, while maintaining existing fee waiver eligibility for low-income and vulnerable populations and introducing new fee exemptions for specific humanitarian programs. If approved, the proposed rule would either reduce or minimally increase fees for over one million low-income filers annually.

“In addition to improving customer service operations and managing the incoming workload, USCIS must continue to fulfill our growing humanitarian mission, upholding fairness, integrity, and respect for all we serve,” said USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou. “This proposed rule allows USCIS to more fully recover operating costs for the first time in six years and will support the Administration’s effort to rebuild the legal immigration system.”

The proposed measures include incorporating biometrics costs into the primary benefit fee and eliminating the separate biometric services fee, establishing distinct fees for each nonimmigrant classification covered by Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Workers, adjusting the premium processing timeframe from 15 calendar days to 15 business days, and introducing lower fees for certain forms submitted online. The proposed rule maintains existing fee waiver eligibility requirements. Projected revenues resulting from the proposed rule would enable USCIS to increase the number of adjudicators processing applications, implement technological improvements, and enhance support provided to individuals seeking information and assistance from USCIS.

The 60-day public comment period begins upon publication of the NPRM in the Federal Register. Fees will not change until the final rule takes effect, after the public has had the opportunity to comment, and USCIS finalizes the fee schedule in response to such comments. USCIS will conduct a public engagement session on the proposed fee rule on January 11, 2023.

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