This article was originally published in the Hill on February 4, 2024.

On Jan. 31, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a new final rule updating the fee schedule for immigration petitions, applications, and services. Although some fees will decrease, others will increase by more than double. The new Asylum Program Fee will be levied on employers to fund the costs of asylum processing instead of investing in addressing American labor demands and America’s future.

These fee increases are the result of years of USCIS funding shortfalls, in which the largely fee-funded agency has struggled to keep pace with growing costs. The changes set to take effect on April 1, 2024 are necessary to maintain and improve agency efficiency and productivity without burdening taxpayers. 

The Asylum Program Fee, however, will be levied on employers who are petitioning for foreign workers through programs like the H-2A, which supplements our farm workforce; the H-1B, a staple of the American tech industry; and the O-1 visa for those with extraordinary abilities (think: former Olympic athletes and Pulitzer prize winners). The fee will fund the processing and adjudication of asylum applications, which do not have a fee.

The totality of other fees once covered the costs of asylum adjudication, and the need for a separate ones only arose from the sheer scale of our asylum backlog. From the beginning of fiscal year 2021 through the end of fiscal year 2023, USCIS received over 756,000 asylum applications, up from less than 300,000 in the three years prior. This does not include the more than 2 million asylum applications filed with the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) from FY2021 to FY2023. 

Full article here.