On September 23, 2010, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced a fee increase for immigration benefits. Unlike most federal agencies, USCIS is primarily a fee-based organization, with 90% of its approximately $2.7 billion budget paid for by user fees. The economic downturn has meant that fewer employers were petitioning for foreign national workers, and that fewer individuals had the money to pay for individual petitions and applications. Consequently, intake at USCIS fell and USCIS brought in less money than expected in 2008 and 2009. To make up for this shortfall, USCIS has enacted a fee increase that will go into effect November 23, 2010.

Overall, fees will go up an average of 10% – this number, however, hides the fact that business- or employment-based categories were disproportionately affected by the fee increase. This is especially true for applicants interested in the EB-5 – Alien Entrepreneur category.

Fortunately, though, the nonimmigrant worker petition used for popular visa types, such as the H-1B, TN, and L categories, only increased 1.5% or from $320 to $325.

Other employment-related visas were not so lucky:

• I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker – from $475 to $580 (22% increase)

• I-765, Application for Employment Authorization – from $340 to $380 (11.7% increase)

• I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions – from $2,850 to $3,750 (31.5% increase)

• I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service – from $1,000 to $1,225 (22.5% increase)

• Application for Regional Center under the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program – from $0 to $6,230

Employers and businesses should be aware of these upcoming increases and, if possible, plan to file cases before the increase on November 23, 2010.