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USCIS Implements New Fees & Forms & Premium Processing Is Lengthened

On August 3, 2020, USCIS published a final rule that significantly increases the filing fees for certain immigration and naturalization petitions.

The rule, which will be effective October 2, 2020, also removes certain fee exemptions, changes fee waiver requirements, and alters premium processing time limits. Any petition postmarked on or after October 2, 2020, must be accompanied with the fees set forth in the final rule.

DHS is adjusting USCIS fees by a weighted average increase of 20% to help recover its operational costs. Unlike most government agencies, USCIS is fee funded, meaning that the fees collected fund nearly 97% of USCIS’ budget. The fee increases were announced shortly after also announcing that the USCIS anticipated having to furlough a significant portion of its workforce on August 31st for up to three months due to budgetary shortfalls. Thankfully, since then, the USCIS has canceled the furloughs.

According to a USCIS News Release, “The rule accounts for increased costs to adjudicate immigration benefit requests, detect and deter immigration fraud, and thoroughly vet applicants, petitioners and beneficiaries.” This statement dovetails with statements from the Department of Homeland Security in another recent announcement saying that it will be working with the Department of Labor to increase worksite enforcement activities to ensure all foreign workers are properly employed and that US workers are not adversely affected by their employment.

Below is a summary of the employment-based immigration changes.

  • The I-129 is the principle form used to apply for a temporary work authorization, including H-1B, L-1, TN, O-1, and E-2 status. USCIS will separate the standard Form I-129 nonimmigrant worker petition into different forms for each visa classification. The new forms will be published by September 2, 2020.
  • The I-765 form is used by various categories of foreign nationals to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card), including F-1 foreign student graduates, H-4’s, L-2’s, and those with an I-485 green card application pending. The USCIS recently published a revised form, effective immediately.
  • Filing fees for most temporary work visa categories will change, as shown by the chart below. For example:
    • H-1B filing fees will increase 21% from $460 to $555 (plus additional and fraud fees). 
    • L-1 filing fees will increase 75% from $460 to $805 (plus fraud fees). 
    • TN filing fees will increase 51% from $460 to $695. 
    • EAD application filing fees will increase 34% from $410 to $550, and there is generally no $85 biometrics fee unless applying for TPS or asylum. 
  • Filing fees for employment-based green card applications will change. 
    • I-140 petition filing fees will decrease 21% from $700 to $555.
    • I-485 adjustment of status petition filing fees will decrease 1% from $1140 to $1130. 
      • The lower $750 fee for children under 14 years old is eliminated, and all applicants will pay the $1130 fee. 
      • There will no longer be an $85 biometrics fee for the I-485.
  • Additional EAD & AP Filing Fees. Currently, green card applicants typically file for an EAD card for work authorization and Advance Parole (AP) for travel authorization while their I-485 green card applications are pending. The EAD and AP filing fees are included within the I-485 filing fee. However, starting October 2, 2020, the EAD and AP applications will have separate filing fees. EAD application filing fees will be $550, and there is no $85 biometrics fee. The AP application filing fee will be $590. This increases an I-485 filing from $1,225 to $2,270.
  • The filing fee for the naturalization Form N-400 will increase 83% from to $640 to $1,170. The final rule eliminates the reduced Form N-400 fee option for certain applicants.
  • Premium Processing: The final rule will not increase the filing fee for premium processing service, however, it will lengthen the timeframe for USCIS adjudicative action (approval, denial, or Request for Evidence) from 15 calendar days to 15 business days, which effectively lengthens the process from 2 weeks to 3 weeks.
  • Electronic Filing: The new rule provides that the fee for forms currently available for online filing with USCIS and filed online will be $10 lower than the fee for the same paper forms.

Changes to common employment-based and related application types are contained in the table below:

Immigration Benefit/Form Number

Current Fee

New Fee

Percentage Change

Nonimmigrant

I-129 (H1-1B) $460 $555 21%
I-129 (L-1) $460 $805 75%
I-129 (O-1) $460 $705 53%
I-129 (E,TN & CW) $460 $695 51%
I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status $370 $400 8%

Nonimmigrant

I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker $700 $555 -21%
I-485 (Application to Adjust Status) $1,140 $1,130 -1%
I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization $410 $550 34%
I-131 (Application for Travel Document) $575 $590 3%

Citizenship

N-400 (Application for Naturalization) $640 $1,170 83%
 

USCIS will provide a grace period of up to 60 days in which it will accept both the previous and the new versions of certain forms as long as payment of the new, correct fees accompanies the forms. Applicants and petitioners must use the new or revised form by October 2, 2020.

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