A noteworthy development in the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) upcoming agenda for the next six months includes a decision to postpone a planned hike in U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) filing fees until the beginning of 2024. The final details of the proposed increase are yet to be revealed, however, DHS’s proposals earlier this year provide some insight. DHS put forth a draft rule aimed at increasing the filing fees for a wide array of immigration benefit seekers, with a particularly sharp surge for employment-based visa applications.
The suggested fee structure embodies a 40% average weighted increase compared to existing fees, with the rate of increase varying dramatically among different immigration sectors. While some program fees would remain unchanged or even decrease, fees related to employment-based immigration would undergo some of the most substantial hikes.
The last fee adjustment by USCIS occurred in 2016, where an average fee increase of 21% was implemented. During the Trump administration in 2020, an attempt was made to drastically alter the USCIS fee structure. This plan was, however, blocked by the federal court and was never put into effect. The USCIS fee proposal from this January is designed to supersede the 2020 plan, maintaining several elements from the earlier proposal.
Significant fee hikes are on the horizon for various employment-based nonimmigrant categories.
The new proposed fee for H-1B visas would be $780, marking a 70% increase. The fee for an L-1 petition is projected to rise to $1,385, a 201% surge. E and TN petitions would witness a 121% increase, raising the fee to $1,015. Another significant increase is planned for the H-1B cap registration fee, escalating to $215 per registration from the existing $10 fee—a monumental 2050% hike. USCIS justified this hike citing the administrative costs of running the H-1B registration system, along with the aim to prevent any potential exploitation of the cap system.
If the proposed rules are implemented as they are, certain EB-5 immigrant petitions would witness substantial fee hikes. Form I-526E fees (for EB-5 Regional Center Investors) would see a rise to $11,160 from the current $3,675 – a 204% increase. The Form I-829 fee (for Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status) would increase to $9,525 from the current $3,835, a 148% increase.
The delay in finalizing the fee hike until early 2024 could indicate that USCIS may be taking these critiques seriously and rethinking their proposed fee hikes. The actual impact of this public feedback will only be clarified once the final rule is published, which could be as soon as December of this year, with the new rules taking effect 60 to 90 days afterward.
Nicholas Mastroianni, President of U.S. Immigration Fund stated, “filing a petition before the new fee increases could take place at the beginning of 2024 would be the only way to avoid these additional fees and save you thousands of dollars on the overall cost of an EB-5 investment”.