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UPDATE: California Judge Stays the Implementation of USCIS Fee Increase

With just days before a sweeping fee increase set to take place, a California federal judge stayed the implementation and the effective date of USCIS Immigration Fee Schedule and Changes to Certain Other Immigration Benefit Request Requirements. Judge Jeffrey White of the United States District Court, Northern District of California, cites a finding in favor of injunctive relief and the improper appointment of Chad Wolf as Acting Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Therefore, the implementation of USCIS fee increase rule is stayed in its entirety pending final adjudication of the lawfulness of the changes.

This means that the fee increase and other changes will not go into effect on October 2, 2020, as previously anticipated. This will amount to considerable savings, especially for those filing adjustment of status applications this month. The filing fees for an adjustment of status application (with accompanying interim benefits requests) was set to jump from $1,225 to $2,335, and the filing fees for naturalization applications was set to jump from $640 to $1,170.

Original post “Employers Beware: New Immigration Fees Coming Soon” published on August 5, 2020.

On July 31, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released the final version of a fee rule initially proposed in November 2019.  Under the new rule, which goes into effect on October 2, 2020, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will change the filing fees for the vast majority of employment-based petitions and applications filed with that agency.

Below is a summary of the fee changes for the more common petitions and applications filed by U.S. employers and their foreign employees:

*For companies with more than 50 employees that have at least 50% of their workforce in H-1B and/or L-1 status, USCIS has reinterpreted the current law to apply an additional fee ($4,000 for H-1B petitions, and $4,500 for L-1 petitions) not just for initial petitions, but for most extension petitions as well.

**While the filing fee for form I-485 will decrease by $10, it is worth noting that applicants will now see separate fees for the interim benefits of employment authorization (I-765) and travel authorization (I-131). Currently those fees are included with the I-485 filing fee.

Under the new rule, the premium processing adjudicating time will go from within 15 calendar days to within 15 business days (allowing up to four additional days for adjudication).

The USCIS, which is funded almost entirely by filing fees, has been the subject of much criticism lately, and it now faces the threat of furloughing up to 75% of its workforce unless Congress provides the $1.2 billion bailout it is requesting. While the Final Rule specifically states that it does not provide for the transfer of Immigration Examinations Fee Account (IEFA) funds collected by USCIS to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) efforts, the current financial strains of the agency is attributed in part to the fact that USCIS has transferred hundreds of millions of dollars in application and petition fees to ICE for, among other purposes, the hiring of hundreds of ICE enforcement officers. For this reason, immigration advocates are urging Congress to hold USCIS accountable before authorizing any bailout funds to the agency.

For further information on fee changes, feel free to contact the immigration team at Nilan Johnson Lewis.

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