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US Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced late on Friday November 8 that they would be publishing a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register seeking to increase filing fees for most applications – in some cases quite significantly.
Filing fees go into an account called the “Immigration Examinations Fee Account” (or “IEFA”) which funds USCIS adjudication operations; little (only 4%) of USCIS’ adjudications budget comes from taxpayer-funded appropriations. The Service has in its announcement justified the increases.
The agency points to a need to fund increased costs of operations as justification for an increase of 21% (which it says is a “weighted average”) and is similar to the last increase in 2017. However, much of the increasing costs of adjudications is due to the agency’s own policy changes which increased dramatically the amount of work and time each case takes to adjudicate. The dramatic increases in the number of Requests for Evidence and number of Denial decisions issued mean an increase in officer time spent on each case, with no evidence to support any contention the more detailed inquiries are needed to combat less detailed filings or greater fraud. USCIS is itself the author of its increased workload.
Further, the 21% “weighted average” increase masks very significant increased for certain specific applications: a 77% increase in the filing fees for L-1 applications, a 55% increase in O-1 filing fees, and an 87% increase in fees for H-2A filing fees for example.