By: Jarbath Peña Law Group
On January 3rd, 2023, USCIS released its proposed rule, which includes significant increases in immigration application fees. While this proposal has not become final, nor has it yet been enacted, it could significantly increase application filing fees as early as May of 2023. We at Jarbath Peña Law want you to have the information ahead of time so that you are prepared.
Background on the Proposed Rule
Every two years, USCIS is required to review its rate structure to keep the agency on sound financial footing. Fortunately, the agency has been able to keep filing fees the same since 2016, even though 96% of its revenue comes from these fees. Unfortunately, the COVID epidemic has greatly impacted the agency as applications dropped significantly during this time and caused a 40% drop in USCIS revenue. The combination of a temporary hiring freeze, workforce attrition, and a depleted cash reserve has greatly reduced the agency’s capacity.
This situation is exacerbated now that the pandemic is waning and caseloads return to pre-pandemic levels. According to USCIS Director Dr. 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.” USCIS projects that the additional revenues will enable it to increase its support to applicants, fund its need to implement technological improvements, and increase the number of adjudicators processing applications. All of this will streamline the current overburdened and underfunded process.
What Is In the Proposed Rule?
The proposed rule contains dramatic increases in fees for employment-based visas like the H1B and family-based immigration applications, for example. Some other proposal examples include the following:
Total marriage-based green card application fees that include the mandatory I-130 petition for a family member are set to increase from $1,760 to $3,640.
Fees for accompanying children will be the same as adults and will no longer be reduced as they have been in the past.
The fiance visa petition will be raised from $535 to $720, which is a 35% increase.
The petition for a relative will be raised by 53% from $535 to $820.
The removal of conditions application will be raised by 76%, from $680 to $1,195.
These fees can add up quickly. For example, the cost to bring a spouse and two children into the U.S. could exceed $10,000 if all of the increases in this new proposal are approved.
In addition to an increase in some fees, the new proposed rule also includes a number of new changes to the agency’s workflow and fee structure. Some of these include:
Removing the separate biometric fee and incorporating it into the main benefit fee;
Changing the premium processing timeframe from 15 calendar days to 15 business days;
For Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Work, establishing separate fees for each nonimmigrant classification; and
Lowering fees for certain forms that are filed online.
In addition, the proposed rule would not change the fee waiver eligibility requirements.
When Can We Expect the Rate Increase?
Government agencies like USCIS have to go through a specific process before they can enact major changes to their fee schedule. The first step in this process is to publish what is known as a “proposed final rule.” USCIS released its proposed final rule, which includes these rate increases, on January 3rd, 2023. The second step in the process is to conduct a 60-day comment period where the agency collects feedback from the general public regarding the proposal. USCIS extended this period to March 13th, 2023.
The final step in the process is for USCIS to issue its final rule. They have at least 30 days after the end of the comment period to gather and analyze the comments and consider the impact the rule will have. Based on the comments, USCIS can adjust its proposed rate increase or keep it the same. If they keep the proposed rate, they will publish the final rule and state the date the new rule will be implemented. This is typically 30 days or more from the publication date. Based on the comment period closing on March 13th, 2023, we expect that these new rates could possibly take effect as early as mid-May of 2023.
Don’t Wait: Contact Us Today!
The cost of becoming a United States legal resident or citizen can be steep. If you wait any longer, it looks like that cost will only increase and make it harder for you to get the immigration status you seek. If you are planning on taking any step toward immigration for you or your family, the time to act is now. If enacted, the proposed rate increase by USCIS could significantly increase your mandatory filing fees. By hiring an experienced and knowledgeable attorney at The Jarbath Peña Law Group, you can quickly get your application submitted. We help streamline the process because we are intimately familiar with every form. We can ensure that your paperwork is filled out properly and filed with the correct filing fee, so your application is not delayed.
We speak English, Spanish, and Creole (hablamos Inglés , Español y Creole, Nou pale Angle, Panyòl ak Kreyòl). And if you are in need of a family law attorney, we can be of service as well. We are here to serve South Florida, so don’t delay. Come see us today! You can also call us at 305-615-1005 to set up a free initial consultation or contact us through our online contact form.