The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has extended the public comment period for its proposed fee rule to December 30, according to a notice published today in the Federal Register. The extension provides stakeholders with more time to weigh in on a recent proposal that would significantly increase most USCIS filing fees and alter the current fee structure.
Today’s notice suggests that the final rule may not increase fees to the extent that the agency originally anticipated. The initial proposal estimated a 21% weighted average increase from current rates, from which some of the additional funds would be earmarked for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). After studying the amount of time and cost expended by ICE in conducting immigration benefit investigation operations, DHS now proposes to transfer only approximately $112 million in USCIS filing fees to ICE, rather than the originally proposed $207 million. Fee amounts in the final rule will be dependent on a number of factors identified by USCIS in the proposed rule, including policy decisions, DACA litigation, and public comments. All scenarios identified by DHS in its November proposal anticipate the final rule will contain at least a 15% weighted average increase over current fees.
Background on proposed fee rule
As originally proposed, the fee rule would increase costs for most petitioners and applicants, and impose new filing and fee requirements for many case types. In addition to fee increases, the proposal seeks to increase the premium processing timeline to almost three weeks, from 15 calendar days, and impose new fees on asylum and DACA applicants.
What this means for petitioners and applicants
The extended public comment deadline provides employers and foreign nationals with an additional two weeks to comment on the impact of the fee proposal. Though the revised ICE funding estimate means that USCIS fee increases could ultimately be lower than initially proposed, the fees are still expected to increase from their current rate, in some cases significantly.
A revised fee schedule will not take effect until a final rule clears the federal review process – a process that typically takes several months or more.