USCIS Announces Filing Fee Changes
Last week, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced changes to the fees it charges to adjudicate filings for immigration benefits. While some fees will be reduced under the new schedule, overall, fees will increase. The new fee schedule goes into effect on April 1, 2024.
USCIS is predominantly funded by fees collected from applications and petitions, such as applications for employment authorization documents or petitions for nonimmigrant statuses, not from tax revenue. USCIS’s position is that the current fee schedule does not provide sufficient resources for USCIS to adjudicate filings in a timely manner and avoid processing backlogs. As a result, the cost of filing an application or petition with USCIS will go up for nearly all types of filings.
Employment-Based Filing Increases
Employment-based filings will see particularly significant fee increases. Most employers petitioning for a foreign worker in the O-1 visa category, for individuals with extraordinary ability, will see the filing fee increase to $1,055, from a current fee of $460. Similarly, most employers who want to transfer employees from an international office to a US office with an L-1 visa will see a filing fee increase to $1,385 from the current fee of $460. Generally, nonprofit employers and employers with 25 or fewer employees will see lesser fee increases for these and similar petitions.
A New Fee
In addition, USCIS is introducing a new fee, the Asylum Program Fee. The revenue from this fee will be used to cover some of the costs of processing asylum claims, for which USCIS cannot charge asylum applicants. USCIS will charge this fee to employers petitioning for an employment-based green card, known more formally as an Immigrant Petition (I-140) or for a Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker (I-129).
Nonprofit organizations are exempt from the Asylum Program Fee and employers with 25 or fewer full-time employees will pay a reduced fee of $300. All other employes will pay a $600 Asylum Program Fee in addition to the other required fees for their filings.
Changes for Green Card Applicants
Another significant change will affect green card applicants applying via Adjustment of Status. Currently, a green card applicant generally pays a $1,225 fee, which covers not only the I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, but also two interim benefit applications: the I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and the I-131, Application for Travel Document.
These interim benefits allow a green card applicant to work in the United States (the I-765) and reenter the US after travel (the I-131) should their underlying nonimmigrant status and/or visa lapse and, in certain instances, travel internationally without adverse consequences to their pending green card application. Under the new fee schedule, a green card applicant will pay $1,440 to file the I-485, $205 to file the I-765, and $630 to file the I-131. As a result, green card applicants who need employment authorization or international travel documentation will see their total cost increase by over $1,000. USCIS will, however, offer a $50 discount for filings submitted electronically instead of through a paper filing.
USCIS has published a “Frequently Asked Questions” website with a full list of the revised forms that will go into effect on April 1, 2024, along with the new fees. It should be noted that some of the changes are not straightforward (e.g., the addition of the asylum program fee in only certain cases), so petitioners and applicants are advised to read the FAQ carefully or consult an attorney. The changes discussed above are just some of the multiple changes instituted by USCIS. If you would like to learn more or have questions about how the increase in filing fees may impact you or your employees, please reach out to one of our Immigration Co-Chairs, Manuela M. Morais or Jeffrey M. Zimskind.