Published December 8, 2019

Many prospective applicants for immigration related benefits are looking to stay a step ahead and submit their filings before a massive increase in application fees may be taking effect in coming months. More specifically, an increase in filing fees has been proposed for a wide array of applications submitted for consideration by U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services or “USCIS” (DHS’ immigration benefits division), including N-400 Application for Naturalization as well as for continued protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

According to Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli, increases are required to keep up with the “true cost” of agency operations, operations which are entirely dependent on application filing fees for funding.  However, immigration advocates view many of the proposed filing fee increases as prohibitive and as presenting yet another obstacle put in place by the current administration to thwart legal immigration.

Under this proposal, the filing fee to apply for naturalization will increase 83%, from its current filing fee of $640 (excluding the biometrics fee of $85.00) to $1,170.  Applicants seeking to extend their DACA coverage and Employment Authorization Document will face an increase of 55% in filing fees, from $495 to $765.

Increases in filing fees are not unusual from time to time, but the extent of the increases sends a message many see as unwelcoming, and that U.S. immigration benefits, such as U.S. citizenship, are only for people of means.  Notably, included in the proposal to increase filing fees are provisions to authorize the transfer of $207 million in filing fee revenues to fund new operations for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a separate DHS agency charged with immigration law enforcement.

Other notable filing fee increases include an approximately 22% increase in filing fees for petitions for H-1B Specialty Occupation visas and a 77% increase for petitions for L-1 visas for managers, executives and specialized knowledge employees of international companies.  Importantly, there are a variety of other applications that would see a filing fee decrease under the pending proposal.

As stated, the revisions referenced above are only proposals and are set to take effect only if it passes required regulatory review – a process involving the input of other agencies as well as consideration of public comments.  Developments on these proposed increases will continue to be covered here.

PUBLISHED December 8, 2019– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2019, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois