US: Immigration Fee Increases Announced

On 4th May 2016, USCIS published a notice advising the public of a proposed fee increase across all services provided by USCIS. The 2016/2017 biennial review indicated that a 21% weighted average fee increase is necessary to recover the full cost of offering these services.

The agency found that it will face a shortfall of $560 million between costs and revenues if it keeps operating at present fee levels. One reason given is that certain services, such as asylum, refugee and humanitarian protection applications, are being offered free of charge or at reduced rates, and an increase in fees charged elsewhere is needed to help offset the costs of continuing to provide those services.  The agency also argues that its fees have not been updated since 2010. 

Employment and investment petitions and applications are being increased at the highest level – a 42% increase has been proposed for Form I-129 fees, which is the petition used to sponsor H-1B professional and L1 intra-company transfer applicants. EB-5 applicants, those who apply for residency in the US based on investing into US businesses and generating employment for US workers, will have to contend with a 145% increase in application fees, from the current $1500 to the proposed $3675.  Entities seeking designation as EB-5 regional centres, which allow immigrants to pool their investments, would see a 186% increase in the fee they have to file, up to $17,795 from the current level of $6,230. 

US employers considered to be “heavy users” of foreign workers – those with 50 or more employees in the US and more than 50% of those employees in H1B or L1 status – already face an added charge of $4,000 for each new H1B (up from $2,000) petition and $4,500 (up from $2250) for each new L visa petition. These charges were set by Congress in December 2015 and are already being collected.   

A 60-day window is currently open for public comment, after which time USCIS will publish its final rule as to the fee increase and begin to implement the changes. 

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