The Rising Costs of U.S. Immigration Benefits: An Effort to Reduce the Backlogs and Equal the Playing Field?

By Marcella B. Marucci, Esq., Co-Chair, NYWBA Immigration Law Committee

On January 31, 2024, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a final rule adjusting the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Fee Schedule which will take effect on April 1, 2024. This means that beginning on April 1st, the cost of government filing fees for certain immigration benefits will increase, impacting a wide range of cases including family, humanitarian, and employment-based immigration matters. The fee increase is expected to generate an additional 1.4 billion dollars per year to support current as well as projected workloads and to lessen the backlog of cases currently pending adjudication. It is worth noting that USCIS operations are primarily funded by these fees.

Among some other changes included in DHS’s final rule is the introduction of a fee to fund asylum operations that provide services at no cost to those seeking refuge. These asylum operations have expanded in recent years due to worldwide humanitarian crises. This additional fee, called the Asylum Program Fee, will be assessed on certain employment-based petitions requiring employers to pay an additional fee with each petition it files depending on how many full-time employees the company employs. Employers with 26 or more full-time employees will pay an additional $600 and employers with 25 or fewer full-time employees will pay $300. To put this into context, each time an employer sponsors a foreign worker for a temporary work visa or permanent residence, it will pay into and fund the Asylum Program. This is in addition to the filing fees that are assessed to cover the cost of processing employment-based petitions.

In addition to the Asylum Program Fee, there are other significant employment-based fee increases. For example, employers intending to sponsor a specialty occupation worker under the H-1B program will need to pay $215 rather than $10 just to register themselves for the H-1B lottery. Another employment-based process that will see a significant increase is the EB-5 application fee. The EB-5 is the Immigrant Investor Program which grants permanent residency to those who can meet certain stringent investment requirements by investing in a commercial enterprise in the U.S. and creating 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers. EB-5 applicants will need to pay $11,160 rather than $3,675 to apply for consideration of this immigration benefit.

Fees for those wishing to apply for U.S. Citizenship and Permanent Residency will also increase. Time will tell whether the final fee rule will be challenged in a court of law. In the meantime, the Immigration Law Committee would love to hear your thoughts about the fee increases. Do you think employers should pay into the Asylum Program? Do you think USCIS’s current user-funded model is sustainable for addressing the increased workload and backlog of immigration cases? Send your comments and questions to Please also be sure to look out for announcements about our next Employment-Based CLE program which will be held on June 5th.