Proposals to increase US immigration filing fees, announced by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) last summer, have been scrapped. Following a lawsuit, the new fees were temporarily blocked just days before they were set to go into effect on October 2, 2020.
On December 28, 2020, the US federal government withdrew its appeal, meaning that the increased US immigration fees can no longer be implemented. Attorney, Otieno Ombok, said: “This signals the end of those fee increases, at least for now.”
“In addition, the form and policy changes that were included in that fee-increase rule will not be implemented. This includes a proposed change in the premium processing timeline from 15 calendar days to 15 business days, up from two weeks to three weeks.”
Fees set to increase by 20 percent
On August 3, 2020, USCIS issued a rule that would have seen US visa and immigration filing fees increased by an average of 20 percent.
The agency had suggested splitting up Form I-129 - used by employers to petition for guest workers under the H1B, H2A, H2B, L1, O and TN visa classifications - into different forms with different fees imposed on each visa type.
The current fee for all temporary worker US visa petitions is $460. However, under the proposed fee increases, the new filing fees would have been:
$555 for an H1B visa
$805 for an L1 visa
$705 for O visas
$695 for TN visas
Up to $850 for H2A visas
Up to $715 for H2B visas
Ombok said: “Some popular business-related petitions were slated for larger increases, from 51 percent for TN and E petitions to 75 percent for L petitions to 85 percent for temporary, seasonal agricultural workers.”
New Form I-129
Under the proposals, USCIS had planned to introduce updated forms, including a new Form I-129 and Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. Fees for applications for employment authorization were also set to rise from $410 to $550.
Employers with a high number of H1B and L1 visa workers would have been subject to additional fee payments when filing petitions for these employees.
USCIS, which relies on US visa and immigration fees for funding its operations, said: “The increases were necessary to continue operations.”
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, USCIS faced going under after suffering a huge slump in revenue. The agency even considered furloughing 70 percent of its staff in a bid to stay afloat.
In addition to US visa petition fee increases, USCIS was also expected to extend premium processing services by a week – from 15 calendar days to 15 business days.
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