U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has proposed historic increases to its fee schedule for immigration benefit applications. Under the proposed fee rule, the filing fee for common employment-based applications would increase by 70% (for H-1B) or $201 (for L-1), the cost of registering for the H-1B CAP selection process would increase from $10 to $215, and a new $600 fee to fund the agency’s asylum program would be added for certain petitions, including H-1Bs, L-1s and employment-based permanent residency petitions. The public comment period for the proposed rule closed in March, and the agency is currently working on the final rule. USCIS is overwhelmingly fee-funded (as opposed to funded by congressional appropriations) and states that the additional fees are required to cover operating costs and recover from a drop in revenues during the pandemic. USCIS indicates that the projected fee increases would enable technological improvements in service, staffing increases, and better customer service and communication.
The proposed fee increases come in tandem with the agency’s expansion of Premium Processing, USCIS’ expedited adjudication service which also requires an additional $2500 fee. Since the beginning of the year, the agency has rolled out several expansions to Premium Processing. As of March/April 2023, F-1 international students applying for an Employment Authorization Document “EAD,” required for these students’ legal work authorization in the U.S, are eligible for premium processing. Earlier this year, immigrant petitions filed by employers for multinational managers and advanced degree professionals as well as National Interest Waiver immigrant petitions became uniformly eligible for the service. USCIS has announced that future phased expansions to Premium Processing will include additional Applications for Employment Authorization (Form I-765) as well as Applications to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-539).
The proposed fee rule and Premium Processing expansion are both efforts by the agency to reduce application backlogs and increase efficiency. However, these efforts come with a steep cost, further impacting employers who are hiring and sponsoring foreign national employees.