USCIS Does It Again....

by Protima Daryanani

It's that time all immigration attorneys have been dreading.  No, no, not a Trump presidency, but rather US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) increasing their fees. In all fairness, it has been over six years since the last fee increase and USCIS is almost entirely funded by fees paid by applicants and petitioners for their immigration applications.

On October 24, 2016, USCIS published a final rule and announced that it would adjust certain fees for applications and petitions postmarked or filed on or after December 23, 2016. In other words, if your application is received by immigration on or after December 23, 2016, you should plan on paying the higher filing fees.
Of note, while the fee for the application for naturalization (N-400) will be increased to $640 from $595, USCIS will also offer a reduced filing fee of $320 for applicants whose family incomes are greater than 150% but not more than 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. In 2016 that means that a family of four with the annual household income of between $36,000 and $48,600 would qualify for the fee reduction. Significantly, the fee for the form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship, will increase from around $600 to $1170. Don’t lose your naturalization certificate!
Fees for other commonly filed forms will also increase:

  • Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, will increase from $325 to $460. This is the form we submit for every nonimmigrant petition application;
  • Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, will increase from $580 to $700. This is the form we submit for every employment-based Green Card petition;
  • Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, will increase from $420 to $535. This is the form we submit for every family-based Green Card petition;
  • Form I-485, Application for Adjustment of Status, will increase from $1,070 to $1,225 including the biometrics fee. Every Green Card applicant must submit this form;
  • Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, will increase from $290 to $370;
  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, will increase from $380 to $410; and
  • Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, will increase from $365 to $455;

The most significant increase is reserved for the Application for a Regional Center Designation under the Immigrant Investor Program where the fee increases from $6,230 to...wait for it...$17,795. In addition, there is a new Annual Certification of a Regional Center fee of $3,035.
For ease of reference, USCIS has also published a helpful chart comparing the old fees and the new fees and has also scheduled a teleconference to discuss the fee increase on Wednesday, November 2, 2016, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. (Eastern Daylight Time).  While it is unlikely they will be dissuaded from increasing the fees, it is an opportunity to pose questions and voice concerns.
USCIS explains that the fees are necessary to cover the costs associated with the services provided by USCIS including fraud protection, national security, customer service, and case processing. Here's hoping the new higher fees lead to more effective service!