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Fees at USCIS Change to Meet Operational Needs

Person in front of a computerThe U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is a fee funded agency, unlike many other government agencies. This means that fees are collected and deposited into the Immigration Examinations Fee Account in order to fund about 97% of USCIS’ budget. To make sure USCIS recovers its costs of services, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced a final rule that adjusts fees for certain immigration and naturalization benefit requests.

As required by federal law, USCIS conducted a comprehensive biennial fee review and found that the current fees being charged do not cover the cost of providing adjudication and naturalization services. The current fees would leave the agency underfunded by about $1 billion per year. It is because of this that DHS is adjusting fees by an average increase of 20% in order to help recover these operational costs.

The final rule calls for increased costs to adjudicate immigration benefit requests, detect and deter immigration fraud, and vet applicants, petitioners, and benefits. In addition to this, it also supports payroll, technology, and operations of USCIS. To help recover the costs of adjudication, certain fee exemptions will be removed and new nominal fees for asylum applicants will be included.

When discussing the matter, USCIS deputy director for policy Joseph Edlow stated, “USCIS is required to examine incoming and outgoing expenditures and make adjustments based on that analysis. These overdue adjustments in fees are necessary to efficiently and fairly administer our nation’s lawful immigration system, secure the homeland and protect Americans.”

To encourage online filing, the final rule provides a $10 reduction in the fee for applicants who submit electronically available forms online. This will become effective starting on October 2, 2020. All applications, petitions, or requests that are postmarked on or after this date are required to include a payment of the new fee.

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