The Biden administration on Tuesday proposed increasing application fees for employment-based visas and other immigration programs, in part to fund the adjudication of soaring numbers of asylum claims along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The proposed rule would also keep application fees for U.S. citizenship and humanitarian immigration benefits, such as asylum, close to or at current levels, as well as codify and expand fee waivers for low-income immigrants and other populations, such as military veterans and victims of human trafficking and other serious crimes.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which has historically relied on application fees, not congressional funds, to administer the nation’s sprawling legal immigration system, said the changes are necessary to ensure the agency’s finances and operations would remain stable for the foreseeable future.

The proposed changes, which will not take effect until after a 60-day public comment period is completed and a final rule is enacted, include significant fee increases for multiple employment-related immigration applications.

Under the proposed rule, applications from employers seeking to sponsor immigrants for permanent U.S. residency or temporary work visas would need to be filed with an additional $600 fee to fund the USCIS asylum program, which is responsible for screening migrants who ask for humanitarian refuge along the southern border, as well as other populations seeking U.S. asylum, such as Afghan evacuees.

Unlike most USCIS programs, the asylum division needs to be funded by Congress or other programs since it doesn’t collect application fees. USCIS said it decided to attach an asylum program fee to employment-based immigration petitions because employers have “more ability to pay” higher fees. Doing so would allow USCIS to keep fee increases for other applications, such as permanent residency requests, low, the agency argued.


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