USCIS Fee Increases Coming, With Fewer Fee Waivers Available

Don't delay in turning in immigration applications to USCIS if you want to avoid coming fee increases.

** LEGAL UPDATE **

Almost every immigration-related application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires payment of a fee. Such fees already tend to run in the hundreds of dollars. But they're about to go up.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is publishing a proposed rule in the Federal Register, seeking to raise various application fees by a weighted average increase of 21%; though the increase will not be evenly spread. For children adjusting status with a parent, for example, the increase could be huge, because the child's application fee will no longer be lower based on age.

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of USCIS, says the that agency needs to act “like a business," and make sure that "applicants cover the true cost of their applications" with minimal "subsidies from an already over-extended system.”

Perhaps that's the reason that some categories in which fees were kept low or at zero for humanitarian reasons are no longer receiving the same treatment. Applications for asylum on Form I-589, for instance, will cost $50 under the proposed rule, though they were formerly $0.

But the raised fees aren't the only change potentially coming along. In many categories of application, USCIS will grant a fee waiver to someone who cannot afford the fee. DHS points out, however, that it has no legal obligation to do so. In fact, it proposes to stop doing so, except in application categories or applicant circumstances where it is required by law to grant a waiver. This would largely eliminate fee waivers for the following forms:

Perhaps the only good news for applicants is that DHS proposes to eliminate the $30 check-bounce fee. Not out of the goodness of its heart, but because actually collecting this fee proved to be more trouble than it was worth.

At this point, the rule is only a proposed one, and after public comment, the final version might change. Nevertheless, DHS tends to get what it wants when it comes to fee increases. Thus, cost-conscious applicants in the process of preparing an application would do well to get it finished up and turned in as soon as possible.

Effective Date: November 8, 2019