Earlier this year, on January 4, 2023, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, that will significantly increase filing fees for employment-based and family-based petitions, while encouraging online filing and lowering fees on some humanitarian applications. USCIS will be accepting public comments on the proposed changes through March 13, 2023.
Which USCIS fees will increase?
Most of the increases are in the employment-based category. That includes non-immigrant classifications typically used to bring highly trained and specialized workers with a minimum of bachelor degree such as H-1B, L-1, E-1, E-2, TN and O-1 which have their filing fees increased between 70% and 200%.
To bring non-immigrant workers for labor jobs that do not require a degree, the filing fees are increased the most for H-2A and H-2B petitions with a named beneficiary, from $460 to $1,090 and $1,080 respectively. H-2A and H-2B petitions where beneficiaries (workers) are unnamed the fees are increased only by 15% and 26%, respectively.
The filing fees for immigrant petitions for foreign workers, EB-2 and EB-3, remain almost unchanged from $700 to $716.
Fees for adjustment of status to permanent resident (green card) and other accompanying applications such as for work permit and travel permission have also increased substantially, and in some cases more than doubled.
What are the other most important policy changes?
The most important other policy change is increasing the time allowed for premium processing. The current policy is to process petitions where the petitioner has paid for premium processing in 15 calendar days. The new policy will increase that time to 15 business days.
Another policy change is the introduction of a new fee for all employer-based petitions. The so called Asylum Program Fee adds an additional $600 fee for Form I-129, used for L-1, E-2, E-1,H-1B, H-2B, H-2A, O-1, TN, and for Form I-140 for employer-based green cards EB-2 and EB-3. The fee was introduced with the purpose of having no increases or lower increases for certain family-based and humanitarian categories.
The registration for the H-1B visa lottery will increase from $10 to $215. This will help cover additional costs associated with the program.
Why is USCIS increasing filing fees?
The main reason to increase filing fees is to restore the USCIS capacity to process applications in a timely manner. During the pandemic USCIS saw a 40% reduction in receipts and instituted a hiring freeze. As the economy reopened USCIS did not have enough personnel which resulted in significant delays. With the increased revenue from the new fees USCIS plans to hire approximately 8,000 people, increase bonuses and compensation for current employees and invest more in technology and automation in order to increase case processing speed and capacity.
Who is impacted the most?
Unquestionably, the most impacted from the new rule will be US employers, especially those in industries that rely on foreign workers to supplement their US workforce.
Employers may mitigate some of the fee increases by sending their employees to a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad to apply for the US visa, instead of applying to change status while in the U.S., which is done through USCIS. This strategy can be useful in some cases such as TN work visa for Mexican or Canadian citizens or E-2/E-1 visa employees. However, for the most common work visa, the H-1B, there is no way around the increased fees because it requires an approved non-immigrant worker petition from USCIS for which the employer will have to pay the increased fee and the additional $600 per worker.
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