USCIS Final Fee Rule 2020 – Key Takeaways

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.

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