After more than two years since USCIS faced a court challenge over its last fee increase attempt, the agency is back again with tin cup in hand. The proposed rule from January 4, 2023 has moderate increases for some petitions and applications and staggering increases for others. You can comment on the proposed fee changes through March 6, 2023. To do so, visit the website https://www.regulations.gov/, enter “Docket No. USCIS-2021-0010” in the search field, then click on the “Comment” box to provide your feedback on the new fees.
There are several noteworthy changes:
1. $700 surcharge, called an “Asylum Program Fee,” for employers filing employment-based nonimmigrant petitions, such as for H-1B, L, and O workers. This fee is in addition to other filing fees.
2. H-1B: $460 to $780. (This is in addition to the $500 fraud fee and $1,500 training fee.)
3. L-1: $460 to $1,385. (This is in addition to the $500 fraud fee.)
4. O-1: $460 to $1,055.
5. Dependent application to extend family’s status: $370 to $620.
6. I-140 employer petition for immigrant workers: $700 to $715.
7. I-485 individual adjustment application for permanent residence: $1,225 to $1,540.
8. I-485 individual adjustment application for permanent residence with ancillary applications for work authorization and travel permission (EAD/AP): $1,225 to $2,820.
9. Change the 15-day premium processing period from calendar to business days while keeping the same $2,500 fee.
Although some of the fees can be justified with rising costs and the need for resources to reduce backlogs and speed up processing times, some are confounding. The premium processing fee will stay the same, yet the processing time will be longer. In a prior fee rule, USCIS elaborated on how profitable the premium processing program is and how the funds received are deployed elsewhere. This cash cow will continue, but now USCIS is asking for a few extra days. This is taking a move from cereal manufacturers’ “shrinkflation” playbook to charge the same amount for a smaller box of corn flakes.
Perhaps the most egregious overreach in the proposed rule is the L-1 filing fee. The L-1 visa category is among the most frustrating for employers and most maligned by the government and anti-immigrant groups. The L-1 visa in theory should allow multinational organizations quickly and easily to transfer managers and specialists to the United States to fill key roles after they have worked for the overseas affiliated organization for at least a year. In practice, the government applies extreme scrutiny to employer’s petitions, even questioning whether a CEO qualifies as an executive, for example, and anti-immigrant views suggest that the L-1 visa is merely a way to fill jobs that local workers could do. Rather than triple the filing fee, what the government should do is change the L-1 statute and regulations to allow for a more straightforward, common-sense, and objective approach to allow multinational organizations to transfer key personnel. Asking for more money only perpetuates the current, overly subjective and skeptical framework that gives USCIS adjudicators too much discretion while confounding employers. Increasing the fee would treat the alleged symptom of an uncurable disease.
Now is the time to make your voice heard. Take a few minutes to share your thoughts with USCIS. After the comment period ends, it will be at least several months before a final rule is published with the effective date for new fees.
The entire proposed rule, which runs 201 pages, is available at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2023/01/04/2022-27066/us-citizenship-and-immigration-services-fee-schedule-and-changes-to-certain-other-immigration.