USCIS Guidance on the Final Fee Rule

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently made updates to their policy manual to provide official guidance on the final fee rule in place. Individuals who wish to learn more about the final fee rule can view the new fee charts and visit the organization’s news alert for additional details.

What the Final Fee Rule Means

On August 3, 2020, USCIS published a final fee rule with the goal of making it effective 60 days later in October. Specifically, the rule stated that “any application, petition, or request postmarked on or after this date must be accompanied with the fees established by this final rule.”

In addition to this change, updates included changes to Forms I-290 and I-765, along with premium processing and certain other types of fee processing. To help individuals better understand the changes that are to take place, USCIS published a final rule PDF that details all of the many changes to take place and how to approach the application process.

Due to a nationwide preliminary injunction issued by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in September, the implementation of the USCIS fee rule was delayed. As a result, the final fee rule is currently on hold until the injunction is lifted and the rule is re-implemented. Regardless, it’s important to be aware of the changes.

In addition to Forms I-290 and I-765, other forms with updated fees according to the new rule would include:

  • I-102 — Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Document
  • I-129 — Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker
  • I-131 — Application for Travel Document (including advance parole)
  • I-140 — Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker
  • I-193 — Application for Waiver of Passport and/or Visa

Other Changes Beyond Forms and Fees

Apart from certain changes to fees and forms, there are other changes that would take effect with the new rule. Keep in mind that these are simply some of the changes detailed in the final rule by USCIS. For additional details, the USCIS website has more guidance and in-depth literature on the changes imposed.

Processing Time

The rule would change the timeframe for premium processing from 15 calendar days to 15 business days.

Limited Application Fee Waivers

The new rule would also limit application fee waivers to Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioners, certain spouses and children who have been abused, T and U nonimmigrants, and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) applicants.

The Use of Signature Confirmation Restricted Delivery

USCIS would be permitted to use Signature Confirmation Restricted Delivery to deliver certain secure documents to applicants such as advance parole authorizations, green cards, and Employment Authorization Documents (EADs). This would be a continuation of a partially implemented protocol that was in place in 2018 for documents that required re-mailing due to issues with non-deliverable returns.

Returns for Fees

There are also certain circumstances when fee returns may be issued. For example, if a check or another payment method used for paying a fee is returned as unplayable due to a lack of funds, USCIS will provide a one-time resubmission of the payment to the remitter institution. However, if the fee fails to go through a second time, USCIS won’t accept the filing, and there will be no redepositing of payments if payment methods fail to go through for any reason other than insufficient funds.

The rule will also remove the $30 charge currently in place for dishonored payments, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may reject any request accompanied by checks that are over 365 days older than the date of receipt.

Fees for Biometric Services

For a majority of applications, according to the rule, “DHS is incorporating the biometric services cost into the underlying immigration benefit request fee instead of charging a flat $85 biometric services fee… DHS will continue to recover the cost of providing biometric services, but it will do so by adjusting form fees to reflect the total cost of adjudication, including providing biometric services.” On the other hand, certain applications will come with a separate $85 or $30 biometric services fee.

The 9-11 Response and Biometric Entry-Exit Fee

The final rule will also issue a $4,000 9-11 Response and Biometric Entry-Exit Fee to any individuals who wish to file new or extending H-1B petitions and employ 50 or more employees in the U.S., as long as over 50% of those employees are on H-1B, L-1A, or L-1B nonimmigrant visas. However, there will be an exception granted for petitioners filing amended petitions without any request for an extended stay. For petitions filed on or after September 30, 2027, this fee will no longer apply.

The USCIS website offers additional information about this rule and all of the changes to be expected, along with guidance to help ensure compliance with the new rule.