U.S. immigration agency plans fee increase

Bild von US-Dollar für USCIS-Gebühren


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in January 2023 to adjust certain fees for immigration and naturalization applications. Rising operating costs and the urgent need to hire staff to deal with the backlog of USCIS application processes, some of which still exist, as well as to prevent new delays, are the main arguments.

USCIS, the U.S. immigration agency, is funded about 96 percent by application fees and not by congressional tax dollars - unlike many other federal agencies.
A comprehensive review, required by federal law every two years, has now found that the fees, unchanged since 2016, do not cover the agency's ongoing costs. Back in 2020, USCIS proposed a fee adjustment under the then-Trump administration, but it was blocked by the federal courts and never implemented.

Severe revenue losses during pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on USCIS between 2020 and 2022. Not the least of which was the 19-month Travel Ban imposed by the United States between March 2020 and November 2022, which led to a dramatic drop in new applications and a resulting loss of about 40% of revenue. Not only did this put the agency in considerable financial distress, but it also led to massive job cuts - ultimately resulting in much longer processing times and a huge backlog in terms of application procedures.

New proposal for fee regulation

As a result, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has released a proposal to adjust the USCIS fee schedule to fully cover ongoing costs, restore and maintain a timely level of USCIS service, and improve customer satisfaction.

Key elements of the proposed fee schedule:

  • Maintain existing fee exemptions for low-income and vulnerable populations.
  • Introduction of new fee waivers for certain humanitarian programs
  • Limiting fee increases for naturalization applicants
  • Staggering fees according to applicants* ability to pay.

The draft regulation will be accompanied by a 60-day public comment period, giving all interested parties the opportunity to comment on the draft, offer counterarguments, or submit alternative proposals.

Projected impact of the new rule

Under a proposal from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), some fees for immigration and naturalization applications would be increased, while existing exemptions for low-income and socially disadvantaged groups would be maintained and new exemptions for certain humanitarian programs would be introduced. The proposed new rules are expected to either lower or only slightly increase the fees for more than one million low-income applicants per year.

USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou affirmed that the new fee regulation will allow USCIS to fully cover its operating costs and improve its customer service and humanitarian mission while maintaining fairness, integrity, and respect for all applicants.

Measures include, for example:

  • the consolidation of previously separate fees or their elimination
  • The introduction of separate fees for specific nonimmigrant categories, particularly I-129 petition processes (H-1B, L-1, O-1, etc.)
  • Change in premium processing terms
  • Lowering fees and expanding the online filing option (paperless filing forms) for certain application procedures

To further improve its service, U.S. Immigration plans to use the increased revenue to provide $1.2 billion to hire nearly 8,000 employees and $149 million for annual salary increases.

Overview of planned changes

Here we have an overview of all the changes that nonimmigrant and immigrant visa applicants would need to prepare for in the future:

1. fee adjustments averaging 40%

  • New Fees
    Fees for the Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant, will now vary by category, with the standard fee previously being $460. For L visas (Individual), the fee would increase to $1,385, while H-1B would be $780 and O visas would be $1,055. This represents an increase of about 200% for the standard I-129 L-Individual fee and is also among the highest increases of all categories.

  • Establish an "Asylum Program Fee"
    To date, asylum cases have been free. To ensure this continues in the future, USCIS proposes to implement an additional Asylum Program Fee of $600. This fee would be charged in the future for all Employment-Based I-129 and I-140 (green card) proceedings, regardless of whether they are initial or renewal applications.

  • I-539 (Change of Status/Renewal)
    • Online filing: from $370 to $525
      Paper: from $370 to $620
  • I-765 (EAD)
    • Online filing: from $410 to $555
    • Paper: from $410 to $650
  • H-1B Registration Fee
    Advance online registration in March for the H-1B process includes a lottery from the pool of registered applicants:in. Registration is very low-fee and previously cost $10. This fee is to be raised to $205 under current plans.

2. extension of the Premium Processing processing period

There are no plans to increase the fee for this optional service, as a separate provision for the expedited application process (e.g., for I-129, I-140) already exists, see also"Premium Processing Expansion." To date, the Premium Processing Service allows expedited processing within 15-45 calendar days (depending on the application process), including weekends and holidays. However, the timeframe for Premium Processing is scheduled to change from calendar days to business days.

  1. Biometrics Fee (e.g., for I-539 applications)
    The Biometrics Fee will be included in the standard fee for certain procedures and the separate fee for biometric services will be eliminated in most cases. Previously, the Biometrics Fee was $85.

  2. Discount for Online Application
    Currently, USCIS fees for online and paper procedures are identical. This is expected to change with the new regulation. Lower fees when using online services should encourage their appeal and make processing more efficient.

Percentage increase

The most important changes at a glance:

Immigration application

Current fee

Previous fee

Percentage increase

H-1B Registration

10 USD

215 USD

2050 %

I-129 (H-1B)

460 USD

780 USD

   70 %

I-129 (L-1)

460 USD

1,385 USD

 201 %

I-129 (O)

460 USD

1,055 USD

 129 %

I-129 (TN)

460 USD

1,015 USD

 121 %

I-140 immigrant visa

700 USD

715 USD

     2 %

I-485 Change of status

1,140 USD

1,540 USD

   35 %


What's next

The fee adjustment proposal was published in the Federal Register on January 4, 2023. Currently, DHS has established a 60-day public comment period and is accepting public comments on the proposals through March 6, 2023.

Whether and when actual implementation of the new regulations will occur depends on several factors. For example, on the comment period as well as potential lawsuits against the implementation of this regulation. Should the regulation prevail, the new fees or adjustments could go into effect in early 2024. We will, of course, continue to keep you informed.


Updated on 17.2.2023

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