In a recent move, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced a final rule to revise fees associated with immigration and naturalization benefit requests. This marks the first adjustment since 2016 and is aimed at enhancing the agency’s ability to cover operational costs and expedite the processing of applications. These changes, effective from April 1, 2024, are the outcome of an extensive fee review mandated by law.
Why Are These Adjusted Immigration & Naturalization Fees Necessary?
USCIS’s comprehensive review revealed that the existing fee schedule was insufficient in covering the full spectrum of agency operations. This includes the expansion of humanitarian programs, federally mandated pay raises, additional staffing, and other critical investments. Director Ur M. Jaddou emphasized that this update, the first in over seven years, is crucial for the agency to continue making strides in customer service and backlog reduction, all while maintaining fairness and integrity.
What Are the Key Highlights of the New Rule?
The new rule incorporates several significant updates:
- Reduced Cost Recovery: The annual cost recovery requirement is lowered by $727 million, factoring in budget benefits from improved efficiency measures.
- Expanded Fee Exemptions: There are now broader fee waivers for Special Immigrant Juveniles, victims of human trafficking, crime, and domestic violence, U.S. military members, Afghan allies, and families involved in international adoption.
- Special Discounts: Nonprofit organizations and small business employers will benefit from special fee discounts.
- Adjusted Fees for Certain Applicants: Employment Authorization Document applications and adjustment of status applicants under 14 in specific circumstances will see reduced fees.
- Expanded Eligibility for Fee Reduction in Naturalization: Individuals with household incomes between 150% and 400% of the Federal
- Poverty Guidelines can now avail of a 50% fee reduction for naturalization applications.
- Online Filing Discount: A standard $50 discount is offered for online filings.
Moreover, the new fees are either the same or lower than those proposed initially. The final rule caps the fee increase for most individual filers to a maximum of 26%.
How Will These Changes Impact Applicants?
The new fee structure is designed to better reflect the operational costs of USCIS, enabling the agency to leverage innovative solutions to enhance customer experience and manage backlogs more effectively. However, it’s important to note that despite these adjustments, USCIS still requires congressional funding to fully address the increasing volume of cases.
What Should Applicants Do in Light of These Changes?
USCIS encourages individuals to review the updated forms and fees listed on their website, which will be in effect from April 1, 2024. A grace period until June 3, 2024, will allow the submission of most forms with either the previous or new fees. However, certain forms, like the I-129 and I-140, will not have a grace period due to revised fee calculations. Importantly, the I-129 form is used to obtain a variety of worker visas, including the H-1B, L-1, and 0-1 visas.
If you have further questions or require the assistance of a competent New York City immigration lawyer with any immigration-related matter, please don’t hesitate to contact the Lightman Law Firm today.