On Friday, May 15, 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) reportedly requested $1.2 billion in emergency funding from Congress because it lacks the budget to continue operations through the summer. USCIS stated that because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it has received fewer applications for immigration benefits than normal, with the total decrease in applications estimated to exceed 60% by September 30, 2020.
USCIS relies on filing fees paid with immigration applications to support 97% of its budget.
USCIS stated that it will reimburse U.S. taxpayers for the emergency funding by adding a 10% surcharge to immigration application filing fees within the next several months.
What Does This Mean for Me?
Although USCIS has currently suspended in-person services at its offices until at least June 3, 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, USCIS is currently continuing to accept and process immigration applications.
While USCIS has indicated that it will impose a 10% surcharge on filing fees within the next several months, it is also likely that USCIS filing fees will further increase in the near future. Notably, in November 2019, USCIS published a proposed rule that would significantly increase filing fees for more immigration applications. For example, some of the filing fee increases under the proposed rule include:
- The filing fee for I-765 work permit (Employment Authorization Document or EAD) applications and renewals would increase from $410 to $490. First-time asylum EAD applicants would also be required to pay the $490 filing fee.
- The filing fee for N-400 naturalization applications would increase from $640 to $1,170.
- The filing fee I-485 adjustment of status applications would increase from $1,225 to $2,195 (if applying for adjustment of status, employment authorization, and advance parole travel authorization).
- The filing fee for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), including employment authorization, would increase from $495 to $765.
- USCIS would require a $50 filing fee for affirmative asylum applications.
- USCIS would eliminate fee waivers for applications including I-90, I-765, I-485, and N-400 applications, among others.
USCIS is required to review and respond to comments that the public submitted in response to its proposed rule, and USCIS has not yet announced a final rule for the proposed filing fee increase.
Given the coming filing fee surcharge and proposed filing fee increases, it may be advisable for certain individuals to file applications with USCIS prior to the changes noted above. Please contact Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC to discuss your specific case.