On November 14, 2019 the Trump Administration proposed increasing the cost of filing many types of non-immigrant and immigrant visa applications.  The proposed rule to implement these fees increases is currently open for public comment until December 30th, 2019 and is slated to go into effect in 2020.  The fees for citizenship would increase by more than 80% from $640 to $1,170 and for marriage-based green cards the application fees would increase from $1,760 to $2,750.

Employment-based nonimmigrant filings:

Employment-based petitions such as the H-1B specialty occupation  visa category and the L-1A intracompany transferee visa would also see increases in filing fees without any promises for increased efficiencies on the part of USCIS.  In fact, under the proposed rule, USCIS would extend the timeframe on Premium Processing, which is the one process available to expedite certain cases. While the proposed rule would not increase the cost of Premium Processing from its current $1,440, it would extend the processing timeline from 15 calendar days under current policy to 15 business days under the new fee schedule, thereby increasing the processing time from approximately two weeks to approximately three weeks in most cases, and longer if the processing window includes holidays. In addition, under this new rule USCIS would create separate fees and forms for H-1B, L-1 and other nonimmigrant visa types that use the I-129 Form.

Here is a sample of the fee changes for some of the most commonly used employment-based non-immigrant visa classifications:

FORM Current Fee Proposed Fee % change
Form I-129  for H-1B and H-1B1 $460 $560 22%
Form I-129 for H-2B (named beneficiaries) $460 $725 58%
Form I-129 for L-1 $460 $815 77%
Form I-129 for O-1 $460 $715 55%
Form I-539, Application to Extend or Change nonimmigrant status $370 $400 8%

Adjustment of Status applications:  DHS is also proposing significant increases in permanent residency (“green card”) applications for adjustment of status and the ancillary benefits of employment authorization and advance parole. Adjustment of Status is used for both employment-based and family-based permanent residency applications.  Currently adjustment applicants pay a filing fee of $1,225 and do not have to pay additional fees for the related employment authorization document or advance parole, documents which allow them to continue to work and/or travel abroad while their applications are pending with USCIS.  However, the proposal seeks to require separate fees for each ancillary benefit, while also increasing the cost of those ancillary benefits. Although the proposed fee schedule slightly reduces the filing fee for the I-485 itself, the overall cost of the I-485 plus the employment and travel authorization (which most adjustment applicants need) will increase dramatically. For adjustment of status applicants who apply for advance parole and employment authorization, the overall cost of all three benefits  will increase to $2,195. It should also be noted that under the current fee schedule, children under the age of 14 are charged lower filing fees whereas under the new fee schedule they will be charged the same as an adult.

These proposed fee increases are significant and come at a time when processing on all types of applications at USCIS centers are slower than ever.  The new rule does not address this decline in agency performance nor does it offer any reassurance that higher fees will lead to faster processing.  The   overall impact of the fee increase will be to further delay and restrict legal immigration while making it prohibitively expensive for many.