WASHINGTON—U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is seeking public comment on a proposed federal rule that would adjust fees for immigration benefit applications and petitions. The proposal, posted to the Federal Register today for public viewing, would increase overall fees by a weighted average of about 10 percent but would not increase the fee for the naturalization application.
USCIS is a fee-based organization with about 90 percent of its budget coming from fees paid by applicants and petitioners to obtain immigration benefits. The law requires USCIS to conduct fee reviews every two years to determine whether it is recovering its costs to administer the nation’s immigration laws, process applications, and provide the infrastructure needed to support those activities. This proposed rule results from a comprehensive fee review begun in 2009.
“We are mindful of the effect of a fee increase on the communities we serve and have worked hard to minimize the size of the proposed increase through budget cuts and other measures,” said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas. “Requesting and obtaining U.S. citizenship deserves special consideration given the unique nature of this benefit to the individual applicant, the significant public benefit to the Nation, and the nation’s proud tradition of welcoming new citizens. Recognizing the unique importance of naturalization, we propose that the naturalization application fee not be increased.”
USCIS’s fee revenue in fiscal years 2008 and 2009 was much lower than projected, and fee revenue in fiscal year 2010 remains low. While USCIS did receive appropriations from Congress, budget cuts of approximately $160 million have not bridged the remaining gap between costs and anticipated revenue. A fee adjustment, as detailed in the proposed rule, is necessary to ensure USCIS recovers the costs of its operations while also meeting the application processing goals identified in the 2007 fee rule.
The proposed fee structure would establish three new fees, including a fee for regional center designations under the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program, a fee for individuals seeking civil surgeon designation and a fee to recover USCIS’s cost of processing immigrant visas granted by the Department of State. The proposed fee structure also reduces fees for certain individual applications and petitions as a result of lower processing costs.