The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that starting from October, they will increase their operational fees by an average of 20 per cent in an effort to recover its costs of services. The Department of Homeland Security released a Final Rule last week, which details the new fee adjustments.

In a press release of July 31, the USCIS claimed that if they continue with the current fees, they would be underfunded by up to $1 billion per year. The immigration agency is fee-funded, unlike most other government agencies and the revenues collected by operational fees amount to 97 per cent of its budget.

The USCIS’s deputy director for policy, Joseph Edlow said:

“USCIS is required to examine incoming and outgoing expenditures and make adjustments based on that analysis. These overdue adjustments in fees are necessary to efficiently and fairly administer our nation’s lawful immigration system, secure the homeland and protect Americans.”

In addition to the average 20 per cent fee increase, the Final Rule also removes some of the fee exemptions, announces multiple fees for nonimmigrant worker petitions, limits the number of beneficiaries for some of the application forms, and changes the processing times, reports VisaGuide.World.

For some of the applications, such as the I-129L, which is a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, the fee was increased by 75 per cent. For petitions for O visas (extraordinary ability), the fee will rise by 53 per cent, while visas for NAFTA professionals, traders and investors, sportsmen and entertainers, training visas, cultural exchange visas, and visas for religious workers, the fee will increase by 51 per cent.

The USCIS is also encouraging filling the application forms online, offering a 10 per cent reduction in the fee for anyone who completed an electronic version of the application form, adding that, “Online filing is the most secure, efficient, cost-effective and convenient way to submit a request with USCIS.”

These forms are all available on the USCIS page.

The changes, issued by the Trump administration, have been criticized as being designed specifically to restrict immigration and make it harder for international students or businesses seeking to employ international workers.

US President Trump has been frequently criticized in the past for his takes on immigration. Last month, he faced backlash regarding his decision to deport international students enrolled in online classes due to COVID-19, a plan which he ultimately dropped.

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