USCIS is a feed funded organization and 97% of its budget comes from filing fees collected by them. In June 2020, they said they are short on budget and could furlough 13,000 employees. In July 2020, after further review, they said they have budget surplus and Senate sent a letter to USCIS not to furlough anyone and they plan to address the deficit for FY 2021 year. Just before going into effect, Court Blocked the fee increase. In this article, we cover the fee increase information related to H1B, H4, L1, F1 visa holders and Adjustment of Status applicants, including court order info.
USCIS October Fee Increase Blocked by Court Order
October 1st, 2020 : USCIS updated today their website with the guidance on the Fee increase. They confirmed that they will accept the current old fee structure and current forms until the lawsuit is sorted out. So, all the fee changes that are listed in this below article are not going into effect until the lawsuit is sorted out. See below screenshot on USCIS Fee Guidance. You can check alert on USCIS Filing Fees page
September 30, 2020 : Today USCIS issued a news alert saying their response to the Court order telling that it will hurt the USCIS as they are fee funded and overdue by two years. While they are yet to update the fee alert guidance alert on their website in other pages, at least this gives an indication that the fee increase may not go into effect as they originally planned to . See below screenshot and You can check USCIS Alert
September 29, 2020 : Today US District Court in California put a hold ( stay) on Fee increase that was set to take effect from October 2, 2020. They gave an Injunction Order to stop the fee increase from taking effect until the court case is sorted out. This is a big relief for many filing Adjustment of Status Applications as the fee will be far lesser now. There is going to be a lot of people filing AOS applications now as Dates for Filing are used now instead of Final Action Dates by USCIS for October 2020.
You can check the court injunction order decision document below. The case revolves around few points as listed below :
- Appointment of Mr. Aleemnan and Mr. Wolf
- Fee increase violates some procedural and major requirements as part of Adminstrative procedure Act (AP) and does not disclose data properly.
- The final rules does not look at the key problem of price changes and how it can impact low income immigrant families, impact for asylum applicants
- Picking up things that Congress did not intend DHS to consider
- Proof that the fee increase rule will impact harm to the parties involved ( this is needed for injunction)
- Pubic interest on the fee hike. Court reviewed 8 general external organizations that are not part of the case ( as it is for public interest) on this fee hike before they took the decision. They are called as amicus briefs.
Below is the screenshot of the Court Decision
Below is the actual copy of the Court Order
Background – Why USCIS increasing Fee?
As USCIS is a fee funded organization, they review the application fee and operations cost every two years and revise the fee accordingly. This is a normal process, previous they increased average fee by 21% in December 2016. For the fee increase, there was a rule published in Federal Register for fee increase seeking public comments. As an outcome of all of that, today USCIS announced fee changes and they said overall average increase of fee is about 20%.
The fee increase is weighted average, meaning not every form fee will go up by 20%, for some it will be lower, for some it maybe higher. Also, USCIS estimates that their fee shortage is about $1.036 Billion Dollars based on their study, below screenshot shows the revenue vs budget for last two years. In below table, IEFA means Immigration Examinations Fee Account. All the fee that USCIS gets will be deposited in IEFA account.
Now that we know the background, let’s look at the details.
Summary of USCIS Fee increases for H1B, H4, L1, Green Card, EAD
USCIS final rule for fee increase document is 576 pages. It has details about all the changes, calculations, reasons and explanation for comments from users on the fee changes. To make it easy for everyone, below are key points that are relevant to H1B, H4, L1, L2, F1, and Green Card processing like Adjustment of Status.
General Fee Changs Info
- Effective Date for USCIS Fee Changes: October 2, 2020
- Biometrics Fee: The Biometrics fee is going down from $85 to $30.
- Removing exemptions: USCIS is removing fee exemptions, changing its fee waiver requirements for few types of the forms.
- Online Form Submission: USCIS is reducing the fee by $10 for all the forms that are submitted online. This is to encourage people to use the online system and avoid mistakes. It can be used for forms like I-539 and many others.
- Appeal / Motion to Re-open: The appeals and motion to re-open/ reconsider fee has not changed much. It is up by 4% and now at $700.
H1B, H4, L1, L2, F1, EAD Fee Changes
- H1B, L1, H4, L2 Fee Changes: The base filing fee for H1B, L1 that use form I-129 will go up by about 20%. Also, the fee for H4, L2 dependents using form I-539 will go up by 8%. The other fees related to H1B Visa have not changed like AICWA Fee, Fraud detection fee, etc.
- EAD Fee – H4, L2, F1 OPT, STEM OPT : Employment Authorization Document (EAD) fee filed using form I-765 and used by certain H4 holders, L2, F1 OPT students and F1 STEM OPT students is going up by 34%. The new EAD fee will be $550 USD going forward.
USCIS Green Card Process Forms Fee Increase
- Immigration Petition (I-140) for H1B, L1 : The immigrant petition for alien worker fee, which is filed as part of Green Card process, for I-140 has reduced by 21% and the new fee is $555.
- Adjustment of Status (AOS), Advance Parole: Green Card applicants, who file for Adjustment of Status (AOS) using I-485 have to pay new fee for EAD (employment authorization document) and Advance Parole(AP) travel document. In the past, AOS applicants could file for EAD and AP document every two years without paying fee, now they need to pay fee.
- Also, the fee for children was $750 before, now it is same for everyone and set to $1140.
- Total Fee for Adjustment of Status using I-485 + EAD + Advance parole is $2,270. The total was about $1,140 before as there was no fee for EAD, AP
Premium Processing – H1B, Others Time Limit Change
The USCIS Premium processing time limits or Service Level Agreements(SLA) are changed from 15 calendar days to 15 business days. So, technically you are moving to 21 calendar days or 3 weeks. This is a big change as many rely on Premium Processing, so you need to plan ahead.
There are a lot more changes in the fee for various other visa types and forms. You can check our Federal Register Fee Increase Page
H1B, H4, L1, F1, GC Fee Changes Table
|Visa Type – Fee Description||USCIS Form||Current Fee||New Fee||Change (USD)||Change (%)|
|H1B Visa – Base filing fee||I-129||$460||$555||$95||+21%|
|L1 Visa – Base filing fee||I-129||$460||$555||$95||+21%|
|H4, L2 Visa – Paper based filing fee||I-539||$370||$400||$30||+8%|
|H4, L2 Visa – Online filing fee||I-539||$370||$390||$20||+5%|
|Biometrics Fee ( H4, L2)||$85||$30||– $55||-65 %|
|Immigrant Petition for H1B, others||I-140||$700||$555||– $145||-21%|
|EAD (H4, L2, F1 OPT, STEM OPT)||I-765||$410||$550||$140||+34%|
|Adjustment of Status for Green Card||I-485||$1,140||$1,130||– $10||-1%|
|Adjustment of Status for kids||I-485||$750||$1,130||$380||+51%|
|EAD (Adjustment of Status)||I-765||$0||$550||$550||New|
|Advance Parole (AOS Travel Doc)||I-131||$0||$590||$590||New|
|Naturalization (paper filing)||N-400||$640||$1170||$850||+266%|
No, the fee changes are only applicable to forms that are submitted on or after October 2nd. It will not apply to existing petitions that are already filed with USCIS.
Well, the fee increase does not mean they will process faster. It all depends on their load and they may not really process it faster as it is not premium processing.
At this point we cannot say. Senate sent a letter to USCIS stating that that they will help cover the budget gaps for FY 2021 that starts from October 1st. With some of the fee increases, they may not go into furloughs. Again, let’s wait and see.
No, it may not really have any impact. Many wait for years to do AOS, and they would not turn down an opportunity for Green Card with these fee increases.
What do you think of the Fee Changes ?