Proposed 10% USCIS Fee Increase: Will Applicants Receive Better Value for Fees Paid?

It was announced today that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will seek an average 10% increase in immigration fees in order to close a projected $200-million deficit for 2010-11. According to USCIS, budget cuts of $160 million were not enough to offset the gap between the agency’s projected $2.1 billion in revenue and $2.3 billion in costs.

“Many of the government expenses being underwritten by these fees are unrelated to the services for which fees are being paid. These are matters of public benefit, and should be funded by appropriations, not applicants,” said AILA President Bernard Wolfsdorf. “While a 10% fee increase in and of itself may not seem high, this comes only 3 years after a 66% USCIS fee increase. Taken together, these increases bring many fees to excessive levels,” Wolfsdorf continued.

One positive aspect of the proposal is that it would not increase fees for citizenship applications. Those fees were hiked by 70% to $675 in 2007, an increase that immigrant-rights groups blamed for putting citizenship out of reach for many lower-wage immigrants. Most clients and lawyers are not happy at all with this announcement.