USCIS to Increase Filing Fees, Implement Revised Benefit Request Forms

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Beginning October 2, 2020, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) will be increasing its filing fees for many of the most commonly filed benefit requests. Applications or petitions postmarked on or after that date must submit the new fees and, for many petition types, will be required to use new forms that are expected to be published imminently.

USCIS’s new fees represent not merely an increase of existing filing fees, but also the establishment of separate and distinct fees for various nonimmigrant worker categories which had previously shared the same filing fee amount. A list of the filing fee changes for some of the most commonly encountered form/petition types follows below:

Nonimmigrant visa petitions

  • Form I-129 filing fee for H-1B petitions: increasing from $460 to $555
  • Form I-129 filing fee for H-2A petitions: increasing from $460 to $850 (for named beneficiaries; the filing fee for unnamed beneficiaries is decreasing from $460 to $415)
  • Form I-129 filing fee for H-2B petitions: increasing from $460 to $715 (for named beneficiaries; the filing fee for unnamed beneficiaries is decreasing from $460 to $385)
  • Form I-129 filing fee for L-1 petitions: increasing from $460 to $805
  • Form I-129 filing fee for O-1 petitions: increasing from $460 to $705
  • Form I-539 filing fee for applications to change/extend nonimmigrant status: increasing from $370 to $400

Immigrant visa (“green card”) petitions

  • Form I-140 filing fee for employment-based immigrant visa petitions: decreasing from $700 to $555
  • Form I-485 filing fee for adjustment of status applications: decreasing from $1,140 to $1,130 (*Note, however, that the Form I-485 filing fee will no longer cover the filing fees for Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization and Form I-131, Application for Travel Authorization, which will require separate filing fees of $550 and $590, respectively)

Naturalization applications

  • Form N-400 filing fee for applications for naturalization: increasing from $640 to $1,170

As noted above, Adjustment of Status applicants will be required to pay separate fees for Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization ($550) and Form I-131, Application for Travel Document ($590) filed in connection with applications for adjustment of status. This more than doubles the total cost of filing an adjustment of status application package to $2,270 if all three applications are submitted. In addition, children under the age of 14 who file for adjustment of status with their parent will no longer be eligible to file Form I-485 with a reduced fee. A standard Form I-485 fee of $1,130 will apply to all applicants, regardless of age.

With some exceptions, USCIS will eliminate the separate biometrics service fee of $85 for many application types and instead has established a filing fee for most forms that incorporates the cost of biometric services that were typically associated with that form. For example, the biometrics fee will now be included as part of the base adjustment of status filing fee for Form I-485.

Premium Processing

Although the $1,440 fee for premium processing will not be increasing as of Oct. 2, USCIS will be changing the premium processing time frame from 15 calendar days to 15 business days. For purposes of calculating the 15-day premium processing clock, USCIS considers business days as those days on which the federal government is open for business. Business days do not include weekends, federally observed holidays or the days on which federal government offices are closed (including, but not limited to, closures due to inclement weather or national emergencies). Therefore, in many cases, the timeframe for a decision in premium processing cases will increase from approximately two calendar weeks to approximately three calendar weeks.

New Forms in Effect as of Oct. 2, 2020

In addition to the updated filing fees, USCIS will also be implementing new forms for many petition types. Specifically, while petitions for H-1B, H-2A/H-2B, L-1, O-1, E-1/E-2/E-3, and TN classification were all previously filed on the same Form I-129, each with its own supplement, beginning Oct. 2, 2020, each of these classification types will have its own Form I-129 that must be used (for example, H-1B petitions will be filed on Form I-129H1, L-1 petitions will be filed on Form I-129L, etc.).

USCIS has used its dire financial position and its threat of staff furloughs to justify these fee changes; however, the significant increases in many application filing fees will almost certainly have the effect of reducing the number of petitioners and applicants who will seek these benefits going forward. Consequently, multiple lawsuits have been filed against USCIS’s proposed fee changes, with hearings scheduled in the coming weeks on a potential injunction preliminarily barring the fee increases from taking effect.

If a court orders that the new rules be enjoined, it is likely that USCIS will be required to continue to use its current fee schedule and accept current versions of all forms. The immigration attorneys at Harris Beach PLLC will be monitoring this issue closely and will provide updates to our clients as they occur.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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