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() — The Department of Homeland Security earlier this year proposed increasing certain immigration fees — a move that got a lot of blowback in recent written comments.
After a fee review by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is under DHS, the agency determined that its operating costs have gone up because of “expanded humanitarian programs, higher demand, increased processing times” and a need for more employees.
“USCIS cannot maintain adequate service levels with the effects of the budget cuts and its current level of spending without lasting impacts on operations,” DHS said.
Many marriage-based green card applications would double from $1,760 to over $3,640 if fee increases are approved, according to Boundless Immigration. For a family of four, the costs to bring their spouse and two children to the U.S could be more than $10,000 should these new changes be approved, the company calculated.
The Nevada Current reports U.S. citizens who want to bring their fiancés to the U.S. would pay 35% more, with a price change of $535 to $720. A petition for a relative, meanwhile, would go up to $820 from $535.
H-2 category visas, which allow U.S. employers to bring noncitizens into the country for work, could also potentially go up. An H-2A visa, which are for the agricultural sector, could go up from $460 to $1,080, while a H-2B visa, also currently $460 and for nonagricultural purposes, could be $1,090.
The last time USCIS increased fees was on Dec. 23, 2016. USCIS is primarily funded through fees charged to applicants and petitioners for immigration and naturalization benefit requests. During the COVID-19 pandemic, less applications were filed, resulting in a 40% drop in revenue for the agency.
These changes are currently only being considered, and will only go into effect once a final rule is officially published.
“In addition to improving customer service operations and managing the incoming workload, USCIS must continue to fulfill our growing humanitarian mission, upholding fairness, integrity, and respect for all we serve,” USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou said in a statement from January. “This proposed rule allows USCIS to more fully recover operating costs for the first time in six years and will support the ministration’s effort to rebuild the legal immigration system.”
More than 6,800 people and organizations submitted comments on the potential changes — most of them oppision. Some said upping the fees will put an added burden on lower-income migrants. The original comment period was set to end March 6, but the deadline was extended to March 13 because of technical issues.
One person who said they are an attorney who’s practiced immigration law for 30 years wrote that fees going up will make things difficult for both people and companies.
“The fee increases have not been shown over time to come with an increase in USCIS productivity and reduction in processing times,” the attorney wrote.
Another comment, submitted by the Masonic Medical Research Institute in New York, states more expensive visas would put an added hardship on it as a non-profit organization.
“The basic H-1B petition fee alone is proposed to increase 70% from the current fee. Such an increase can affect our Institute’s future filings,” MMRI wrote.
A group of senators, including West Virgnia’s Joe Manchin, a Democrat; Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz.; John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., and Idaho Republican Mike Crapo signed a letter asking the Department of Homeland Security to reconsider the H-2A and 2B fee hikes, which the politicians called “dramatic.”
“We strongly support making sure our law enforcement agencies have the necessary resources to protect our borders. We are alarmed, however, that the fee increases will be particularly burdensome for small businesses relying on H-2A and H-2B nonimmigrant visas to meet their workforce needs,” the letter said. “As you know, we are at a time when many in our country are suffering from a severe labor shortage and persistent inflation. It is irresponsible to so drastically increase the price to access these essential guest worker programs while doing nothing to increase their availability.”