H1B, Green Card and Other Immigration Application Fees to Rise by 21 Percent in Average by Late Summer 2016

First Posted: May 14, 2016 10:52 AM EDT
By Glenn Minnis

Immigration and naturalization application fees are scheduled to soon soar by an average of 21 percent.

A new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) proposal reveals the increases are expected to be formally enacted sometime this summer.

Agency officials attribute the increases to the high cost needed to keep operations afloat, maintaining current fees "do not recover the full costs of services."

Agency Claims it Faces Multimillion Dollar Annual Shortfall

Projections are the agency runs the risk of facing a $560 million annual shortfall between costs and fee account revenues if operations continue under the same format.

While some are blasting the proposed increases as "quite high," most are agreement that the agency needs improvement.

"When USCIS increases filing fees, our hope is that they will use the increased revenue to improve efficiency and reduce processing times," said Justin Storch, manager of agency liaison at the Council for Global Immigration.

Processing Time Standards Rarely Adhered to

Despite being mandated by Congress back in 2000 to maintain processing time-lines, Matthew Schulz, a partner at California-based global law firm Dentons, insists 30-day processing times for such applications as employer-sponsored nonimmigrant visas typically take "twice as long or worse" than outlined.

Immigration and naturalization fees reportedly account for 95 percent of USCIS' funding. Fees were last adjusted back in 2010. The new fee increases are expected to most impact employers that bring college-educated workers to the U.S., as well as immigrant investors.

Specifically, USCIS is proposing a 21 percent increase for the filing Form 1-140, which is used to request a foreign worker become a permanent U.S. resident, and a 42 percent increase for filing Form 1-129, used for H-1B professional transfer visas.

"That's a steep increase for any government fee," said Amy Gulati, manager of HR operations and immigration processing at Virginia-based Cvent. "I think this will have the biggest impact on smaller businesses."

The steepest hikes of all are reserved for the EB-5 visa program, which offers green cards to foreign students looking to heavily invest in U.S. owned businesses.