USCIS Final Fee Rule 2020 - Key Takeaways By: David H. Nachman, Esq., Michael Phulwani, Esq., and Ludka Zimovcak, Esq.

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On August 3, 2020, The Department of Homeland Security announced a final rule that adjusts fees for certain immigration and naturalization benefit requests to ensure U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recovers its costs of services. Unlike most government agencies, USCIS is fee funded. Fees collected and deposited into the Immigration Examinations Fee Account fund nearly 97% of USCIS’ budget. The rule, which will be effective October 2, 2020, also removes certain fee exemptions, changes fee waiver requirements, alters premium processing time limits, and modifies intercountry adoption processing. Any application, petition, or request postmarked on or after October 2, 2020, must be accompanied with the fees set forth in the final rule.

As required by federal law, USCIS conducted a comprehensive biennial fee review and determined that current fees do not recover the cost of providing adjudication and naturalization services. DHS is adjusting USCIS fees by a weighted average increase of 20% to help recover its operational costs. Current fees would leave the agency underfunded by about $1 billion per year.

The rule accounts for increased costs to adjudicate immigration benefit requests, detect and deter immigration fraud, and thoroughly vet applicants, petitioners and beneficiaries. The rule also supports payroll, technology and operations to accomplish the USCIS mission. The rule removes certain fee exemptions, includes new nominal fees for asylum applicants, and reduces fee waivers to help recover the costs of adjudication.

This final rule also encourages online filing by providing a $10 reduction in the fee for applicants who submit forms online that are electronically available from USCIS. Online filing is the most secure, efficient, cost-effective and convenient way to submit a request with USCIS.

USCIS last updated its fee structure in December 2016 by a weighted average increase of 21%.

A chart summarizing the proposed and final fee changes can be found here.

https://visaserve.com/global_picture...S_Fee_2020.pdf

Key Minutes from the Final Rule

Transfer of Money to ICE. Does not provide for the transfer of Immigration Examinations Fee Account (IEFA) funds collected by USCIS to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

DACA. Removes the proposed fee ($275) for Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, filed for renewal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Maintains the DACA fees as in effect before September 5, 2017, at $410 for employment authorization and $85 for biometric service.

Fee Waivers. As of October 2, limits fee waivers to immigration benefit requests for which USCIS is required by law to consider the request or where the USCIS Director exercises favorable discretion as provided in the regulation ( e.g., SIJs, self-petitioning VAWA applicants, and certain Afghan and Iraqis) Changes the income requirements for a fee waiver from 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines to 125 percent.

The Director may exercise discretion and authorize the waiver, in whole or in part, if the Director determines that such action is an emergent circumstance, or if a major natural disaster has been declared in accordance with 44 CFR part 206, subpart B.

Adjustment of Status. Removes the reduced Form I-485 filing fee for children under the age of 14 filing with their parent. A standard Form I-485 fee of $1,130 will apply to all applicants.

Requires separate fees for Forms I-765 ($550) and Forms I-131 ($590) filed in connection with applications for adjustment of status, more than doubling the total cost of filing an adjustment of status application package to $2,270.

Provides a $50 reduction in the fee for Form I-485 filed in the future for principal applicants who pay the $50 fee for Form I-589 and are subsequently granted asylum.

Electronic Filing. Provides that the fee for forms currently available for online filing with USCIS and filed online will be $10 lower than the fee for the same paper forms.

Premium Processing. The final rule also lengthens the timeframe for USCIS to take an adjudicative action on petitions filed with a request for premium processing from 15 calendar days to 15 business days.

The Premium Processing fee can automatically increase annually without notice and comment rulemaking if the fee increase will only be in accordance with the increase in the Consumer Price Index.

Asylum. Establishes a $50 filing fee for Form I-589.

Provides a $50 reduction in the fee for Form I-485 filed in the future for principal applicants who pay the $50 fee for Form I-589 and are subsequently granted asylum.

Biometrics. Creates a $30 biometrics fee for TPS initial applicants and re-registrants and asylum applicants and long-term CNMI residents filing a Form I-765.

Removes the $85 biometrics fee for most other applications.

Employment Based Immigration. Creates separate fees and forms for each visa classification filed on Form I-129, with fees increasing as much as 75 percent for an L-1 petition.

USCIS is limiting the number of named beneficiaries to 25 that may be included on a single petition for H-2A, H-2B, H-3, O-2 P, Q, E, and TN workers.

PL 111-230 fees for employers with significant numbers of H/L employees (“50-50 rule”) will now also apply to H-1B and L-1 extension petitions, in addition to initial petitions. It will not apply to amended petitions that are not seeking an associated extension request.

Naturalization. The filing fee for a Form N-400 will increase 83 percent from to $640 to $1,170. The final rule eliminates the reduced Form N-400 fee option for certain applicants.

Intercountry Adoptions. Clarifies that an additional Form I-600 or Form I-800 fee is not required when filing an additional petition for birth sibling. Modifies processes set forth at 8 CFR 204.3, including changing the validity period for a Form I-600A approval to 15 months.

Forms. New Forms I-129, revised Forms I-600/600A, Form I-765 and Form I-912 will be published 30 days before the new fees go into effect.

Secure Documentation. USCIS will send secure identification documents, such as Permanent Resident Cards or EADs, only to the applicant or self-petitioner unless they expressly consent to having the document sent to a designated agent, their attorney or accredited representative and the designated agent, attorney or accredited representative will be required to provide identification and sign for receipt of the document.


About The Author

Nachman, Phulwani, Zimovcak (NPZ) Law Group, P.C. At NPZ Law Group, we are business immigration lawyers who understand that success in today's global marketplace requires a skilled and mobile workforce. We provide our business clients with the legal assistance they require in immigration matters to help them meet their business goals while complying with applicable immigration laws and regulations. We invite you to visit us on the web at www.visaserve.com or to email us at info@visaserve.com or to call us at 201.670.0006 for a consultation.

The NPZ Law Group is US and Canadian immigration law office located in NJ, NY (with affiliated offices in Canada and India). The immigration attorneys and immigration specialist staff at the NPZ!continue to monitor emerging developments in US and Canadian immigration law as the COVID-19 pandemic emergency continues to change the way immigration law will be practiced in the 21st-century.


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