On May 4, 2016, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services published a notice of proposed rulemaking regarding changes to the USCIS filing fee schedule. USCIS is proposing to raise immigration benefit application filing fees by an average of over 20%. USCIS is primarily funded by immigration benefit request fees charged to the applicants, and these filing fees comprise 94% of USCIS’s annual budget of $3 billion. USCIS last raised immigration filing fees in 2010, and the agency has justified the increase as necessary to fully recover the costs of services, to maintain an adequate service level, and to allow for processing and technological improvements.
Over the last six years, USCIS has seen a significant increase in the number of benefits applications filed. While applications filed by employers have remained steady, applications filed by individuals for naturalization have increased 25%, applications for permanent residence by 15%, and applications to replace expiring permanent resident cards by almost 50%.
USCIS’s proposal would raise the base filing fees on employers sponsoring work visas between 20-40%. Foreign nationals filing for permanent residence will see the application fee rise to $1,140 from its current $985, a 16% increase. Those seeking US citizenship will pay an additional 8%, from $595 to $640. At the other end of the spectrum, high net worth investors seeking permanent residence through the EB-5 visa program will see the filing fee increase from $1,500 to $3,675, while the fee for entities seeking designation as EB-5 Regional Centers will skyrocket from $6,230 to $17,795, a raise of 186%!
The rule increasing the fees is expected to become final later this summer. In this case, time really is money, and we strongly suggest employers and foreign nationals file their benefits applications quickly to avoid the coming price hikes.