On Friday, July 31, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it will be adjusting a variety of USCIS fees for immigration services and naturalization benefits. Most of these adjustments are fee increases with the goal of helping USCIS recover from a deficit caused by coronavirus-related office closures. The vast majority of the USCIS operating budget (97%) comes from fees for the services it provides. The new fees are set to take effect on Oct. 2, 2020.
Many of the new fees affect businesses, new citizens, and international students seeking work authorization. For example, the fee for an L-1 visa petition (intracompany transfer) will increase from $460 to $805. The fee for an H-1B petition will increase from $460 to $555. For companies with more than 50 employees whose workforce consists of at least 50% of employees in H-1B and L-1 status, there will be an additional $4,000 fee on H-1B petitions and $4,500 fee on L-1 petitions, as well as that same fee for extensions when the fraud prevention and detection fees are not submitted.
Critics of these fee adjustments say that it is another attempt by the Trump administration to restrict immigration and introduce additional barriers for foreigners attempting to enter the U.S. legally. Additionally, legal experts are claiming that DHS has deliberately misinterpreted certain laws to justify raising prices. Many fees related to high-skilled visa petitions (O, TN, E, P, Q, and R visas) will increase by more than 50%, and the cost of the application to become a U.S. citizen (N-400) is rising by more than 80%, from $640 to $1,160.
The ruling will also increase the allotted premium processing time from 15 calendar days to 15 business days.
DHS states that fees are being raised by an average of 20% “to help recover its operational costs”, and that current fees would leave the organization about $1 billion short in funding per year. The full list of fee changes is available here.
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