Unlike other government agencies, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is a fee funded agency. This means the fees that are collected and deposited into the Immigration Examinations Fee Account fund roughly 97% of USCIS’ budget. In order to ensure 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.
USCIS conducted a comprehensive biennial fee review, as required by federal law. The findings showed that the current fees do not cover the cost of providing adjudication and naturalization services. As current fees would leave the agency underfunded by about $1 billion per year, DHS is adjusting fees by an average increase of 20% to help recover operational costs.
The rule accounts for increased costs to adjudicate immigration benefit requests, detect and deter immigration fraud, and vet applicants, petitioners, and benefits. It also supports payroll, technology, and operations of the USCIS mission. It will remove certain fee exemptions, include new nominal fees for asylum applicants, and reduce fee waivers to help recover the costs of adjudication.
Speaking on the matter, USCIS deputy director for policy Joseph Edlow said, “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.”
The final rule encourages online filing by providing a $10 reduction in the fee for applicants who submit forms online that are electronically available. It will be effective beginning on October 2, 2020. Any application, petition, or request that is postmarked on or after this date must include a payment of the new fee.
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