USCIS Fee Increases Temporarily Blocked by District Court Until Further Notice
On Tuesday, September 29, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) final rule increasing the government filing fees for nearly all immigration benefits was temporarily enjoined by a district court and temporarily blocked until further notice. This rule, which was due to take effect last Friday, October 2, would have made a series of key regulatory changes in USCIS procedures and protocols, including:
Increasing government filing fees by a weighted average of 20%;
Changing the timeline of premium processing requests from 15 calendar days to 15 business days;
Separating the fees and forms for all nonimmigrant (e.g. H-1B, TN, O-1) classifications requested on Form I-129; and
Establishing separate and increased filing fees for Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and Advance Parole (AP) documents filed together with I-485 Adjustment of Status (i.e. green card) applications.
The plaintiffs in the suit filed against the DHS claimed that Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, was not lawfully serving in office when the final rule was published, and that DHS violated procedural and substantive requirements of the APA for failing to provide its reasoning for the final rule and failure to take into account the negative impact of the increased fees on low-income immigrants. The USCIS released a public statement on September 30th indicating that the injunction will leave the agency “underfunded by millions of dollars each business day.” The announcement further states that “this decision barring USCIS from enacting its mandatory fee increase is unprecedented and harmful to the American people.”
What This Means for Our Clients
At the time of this writing, it is still unclear how long this temporary injunction will remain in effect, and it is unfortunately also unclear if and how the new fee schedule will be implemented. The government has up to 60 days to appeal the decision of this district court. In the meantime, the USCIS has updated its website confirming that it will continue to accept current fees and form versions while the injunction is in effect.