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Albany Legal Blog

USCIS Implements Increases to Immigration Filing Fees

On Behalf of | May 7, 2024 | Immigration

I try to balance my use of this space.  I try to educate, but I certainly do not shy away from offering my opinion (something I learned from my old friend and colleague, Mike Friedman, Esq.)  This piece will be a mix of the former and the latter.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) has a fee-funded / user-funded business model that places huge financial burdens on businesses.  For as long as I’ve been in this field, Congress has failed to provide USCIS with the necessary resources it needs to handle its increasing humanitarian workload, reduce its massive backlogs, let alone to handle the current day-to-day filings that continue to pour in.

USCIS published its Final Fee Schedule Rule on January 31, 2024,[1] and it just recently took effect on April 1, 2024. The new fee schedule raises filing fees significantly, which impacts a wide variety of family, humanitarian, and employment-based immigration benefits. An example of some of the increases include the following.  Employers will pay 70% more in filing fees for beneficiaries of H-1B specialty occupation petitions, 201% more for prospective employees of L-1 intracompany transferee petitions and 129% more for individuals on O-1 petitions (related to individuals of extraordinary ability). USCIS will also charge some employers a new $600 Asylum Program Fee when they are filing a petition for an H-1B specialty occupation worker or an employment-based immigrant petition.  USCIS will also raise the H-1B Electronic Registration Fee (for what is commonly referred to as the H-1B lottery) from $10 to $215.

On January 30, 2024, USCIS held a limited engagement as it announced the final rule.  Representatives of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (“AILA”) were there.  According to USCIS, in the past fiscal year, USCIS received 2 million more filings than in previous fiscal years, for a total of 11 million filings.  They also claim to have adjudicated 10 million cases to completion (apparently more than ever before).  They also indicated that their backlog went down by 15 percent.

While USCIS does provide humanitarian filings (e.g., asylum, humanitarian parole, etc.) at little to no cost for some applicants, recent fee increases that went into effect place a very significant burden on companies filing for employees, foreign nationals trying to open up new businesses in the United States, and ordinary individuals applying for such benefits as permanent residence (i.e., a “green card”) for themselves or their family members, or naturalization (i.e., citizenship).

Adjudicating immigration benefits is often a very lengthy process (i.e., years upon years, and this is without regard to visa availability issues, which is an entirely separate matter). Although I am not happy at all with the fee increases that went into effect, and although it pains me to explain this to current and prospective clients, it would make it far more palatable if USCIS used the additional revenue it will now take in to reduce its processing times by streamlining adjudications through leveraging technology, and to better train its employees who adjudicate immigration benefits so fewer careless mistakes are made in a process that is incredibly stressful for even the most sophisticated client. Time will tell.

[1] 89 FR 6194, 1/31/24.