Proposed Filing Fee Changes : New Fees, Increases and Decreases18 Jun 2010
It was recently announced that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) intends to increase selected immigration filing fees. This follows substantial fee increases that went into effect in mid 2007. USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas held a June 9, 2010 press conference on this topic. Director Mayorkas discussed the fee rule that is based on a USCIS comprehensive fee study that began in 2009. The proposed rule would increase the fees at issue by approximately ten percent. A transcript (PDF 86KB) of his comments is available online.
Controversy Created by Potential Increase
USCIS efforts to raise filing fees for the second time in three years has caused controversy within the immigration sector. Director Mayorkas discussed a possible fee increase in September 2009 to cover a $118 million revenue shortfall. This revenue shortfall is the result of a drop in filings for citizenship and skilled-worker visas. This potential fee increase was reported to MurthyDotCom and MurthyBulletin readers in our November 6, 2009 article, USCIS Considering an Increase in Filing Fees.
That earlier increase in USCIS filing fees went into effect on July 30, 2007. The resulting lawsuit filed against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was discussed in our September 7, 2007 article entitled, Lawsuit on Substantial Increase in USCIS Filing Fees.
Three New Fees Proposed
In addition to the fee increases, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (PDF 2.6MB), published in the Federal Register on June 11, 2010, contains three new proposed fees. One of these fees for the first time would impose a $615 USCIS charge for doctors who want to become approved civil surgeons. Civil surgeons are permitted to conduct the medical examinations required in connection with applications for adjustment of status (I-485s).
The second proposed fee would apply to regional centers that want to be approved for inclusion in the EB5 Immigrant Investor Pilot Program. This fee would be $6,230. A new immigrant visa fee of $165 would help the USCIS recover costs related to the processing of immigrant visas through the consulates abroad.
Timing of the Potential Fee Increase
The regulation is in the proposed rule stage, with a forty-five-day comment period that ends July 26, 2010. Fees, therefore, will remain as they are until at least some time after that date. Following the comment period, the USCIS has to review and consider the comments and send the proposed regulation for review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). It is difficult to predict timeframes for any of these proposed changes, should they be enacted. The initial 45-day period is the only things of certainty, at this time.
The existing filing fees, which are always available through the forms page on MurthyDotCom, must be paid until proposed changes become final. Cases filed with incorrect fees generally are rejected.
Some Fees May Decrease
Director Mayorkas announced the intention of the USCIS to reduce filing fee amounts for some case types that have benefited from increases in processing efficiency. Forms that have proposed decreases in fees include the I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé/e, I-539 Application to Extend / Change Nonimmigrant Status, I-698 Application to Adjust Status from Temporary to Permanent Resident, I-817 Application for Family Unity Benefits, and N-565 Application for Replacement Naturalization / Citizenship Document. We would note that these reductions generally are quite small.
Case Types Affected by the Increase in Fees
The list of forms or case types affected by the substantial fee increases is fairly comprehensive. The increases would affect H1Bs, L-1s, and most other employment-based, nonimmigrant categories. Family- and employment-based green card cases would increase under the proposal.
The full list is available in the Notice. Examples of the commonly-used forms that would experience increases in fees follow.
Current and Proposed Immigration Fees
Application/Petition Description: Current / Proposed
I-90 Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card: $290 / $365
I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant worker: $320 / $325
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative: $355 / $420
I-131 Application for Travel Document: $305 / $360
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker: $475 / $580
I-290B Notice of Appeal or Motion: $585 / $630
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status: $930 / $985
I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence: $465 / $505
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization $340 $380
I-824 Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition: $340 / $405
N-600/N-600K Naturalization Certificate Applications: $460 / $600
Waiver Forms: (I-191, I-192, I-193, I-212, I-601, I-612) $545 / $585
Immigrant Visa: $0 / $165
Biometric Service:s $80 / $85
Any member of the public may comment on the proposed regulation. Those interested in commenting should review the proposed regulation and formulate logical, potentially persuasive positions. Simply complaining about the proposed costs alone is unlikely to be persuasive. Comments are public, posted as submitted at http://www.regulations.gov.
Comments must be received by July 26, 2010 and must reference the agency name (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services), as well as the docket number (USCIS-2009-0033). Comments may be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal or via mail or hand-delivery / courier, in hardcopy, disk, or CD-ROM form to the address listed in the proposed regulation.
Voicing opinions on this topic may make a difference. Among other concerns with this proposal, is the fact that fees are being raised to make up for budget shortfalls. USCIS filing fees are supposed to cover the costs of the case adjudications, not subsidize the adjudications of other cases that may be pending in the system. It is unfair to force more recent applicants and petitioners to make up for budget shortfalls created by planning errors, and other internal governmental inefficiencies. We at the Murthy Law Firm will keep readers informed on this important topic, as new information is made available.