Today, USCIS announced new final regulations increasing by 10% on average the filing fees for immigration benefit applications. Although it did not raise the fee for citizenship applications, USCIS introduced some new fees such as for the EB5 regional pilot program designation ($6230.00!), fees for immigrant visas where USCIS has a role in the process ($165.00), and civil surgeon registration fees ($615.00). The rationale and fee list is posted here.
Besides the fee increases, USCIS made technical corrections to some application fees, made procedural changes that reduce other fees for a few applications, and increased the types of applications where fee waivers can be requested. USCIS also issued Q&As.
USCIS said it had received 225 comments during the public comment process, some in favor of the increases, most opposing, and others seeking fee reductions. In addition, USCIS held stakeholders meetings and invited the public to review its budget and cost methodology.
Fee increases have always been controversial, especially among immigration law practitioners and their clients, as well as NGOs that service refugees and low income immigrants. Often, we do not tend to see a corresponding benefit in USCIS processing times or procedures in relation to the fee increases requested by the agency. This is especially true in the last year or so when USCIS says filings are down, but procesing times are taking longer than ever, do not reflect processing times posted on their website, and many cases are delayed by Requests for Evidence. In any event, USCIS will most likely get bombarded with applications over the next two months before the fees go into effect on November 23, thereby increasing processing times more.