USCIS Filing Fee Increase

Posted by Frank Gogol

Moving to the U.S. is an exciting prospect. You make plans and dream your dreams, but it may not always play out exactly how you expect it. There could be some unexpected challenges or costs you encounter in your immigration efforts.

So to help smooth over your immigration process, we have some tips you need to know regarding the USCIS filing fee increase. Let this help you as you prepare the required documents and filing fees.

What are Immigration Form Fees?

The USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) oversees all immigration and citizenship matters in the U.S. and its territories. There are many types of immigration documents employed in the processing of millions of visitors and or immigrants coming here. The documents fulfill an important role in governing this department since it helps the USCIS to keep track of every person who legally enters the U.S.

But this massive operation is not cheap. Many people, systems, and processes aid in the processing of visas, resident cards, and other immigration-related documentation. So most immigration applications have a filing fee to help ease the financial burden placed on this department of government. Someone has to process the application and someone has to conduct the immigration interview. All of these events require man-power or money to take place and therefore has a filing fee.

Your type of immigration route determines the required documents and filing fees. Some fees could be considered expensive, but you’ll notice the USCIS filing fee increase published on November 4th, 2019, will make some types of immigration more expensive. Let’s have a look at the changes taking place under the proposed rule.

What Will Change Under the Proposed Rule?

As mentioned before, the USCIS looks to increase the filing fees on certain immigration applications. Here is a quick overview of what will change under the proposed rule.

  • Adjustment of Status to Lawful Permanent Residency – The application fee increases from $1,225 to $2,195.
  • Affirmative Asylum – The USCIS proposes a new fee of $50 for an asylum application (an application used to be free).
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – A DACA renewal fee will increase with about 55% from $495 to $765.
  • Fee Waivers – The USCIS will not grant fee waivers to certain types of applications and people anymore (except those enumerated by statute)
  • Naturalization – The naturalization application (Form N-400) fee rises from $640 to $1,170.
  • Transfer of USCIS Funds to Enforcement Agencies – The USCIS is largely funded by the Immigration Examinations Fee Account. The current Trump administration wants to move $207.6 million from the account to the ICE for the use of enforcement.

What Will Stay the Same Under the Proposed Rule?

As mentioned earlier, some groups will still be eligible for a fee waiver. These groups are:

  • VAWA self-petitioners
  • battered spouses of certain nonimmigrants
  • U visa applicants
  • T visa applicants
  • TPS applicants

Cost Comparison: Current Fees vs. Proposed Fees

Before we go any further it’s worth comparing the current USCIS filing fee increase that’s being proposed. To make it easier, we’ll look at the cost increase of two of the most common types of immigration routes. A marriage-based Green Card and a spouse seeking a marriage-based Green Card from abroad. Let’s compare the previous cost to the increased filing fee.

Marriage Based Green Card

Original fees – The following filing fees are included:

  • Family Sponsorship Form (I-130) – $535
  • Green Card Application Form (I-485) – $1,140
  • Financial Support Form (I-864) – $0
  • Work Permit Application (I-765) – $0
  • Travel Permit Application (I-131) – $0
  • Biometrics (fingerprints & photos) – $85
  • Total Cost – $1,760

Proposed fees – compare the original fees listed above with the proposed fees:

  • Family Sponsorship Form (I-130) – $555
  • Green Card Application Form (I-485) – $1,120
  • Financial Support Form (I-864) – $0
  • Work Permit Application (I-765) – $490
  • Travel Permit Application (I-131) – $585
  • Biometrics (fingerprints & photos) – $0
  • Total Cost – $2,750

Some of the filing fees in the proposed changes will decrease, but when you compare it to the total package required to get a marriage-based Green Card you’ll notice an overall increase of $990 to apply.

Costs for Spouse Seeking a Marriage Green Card from Outside the United States

Original cost – The following filing fees are included:

  • Family Sponsorship Form (I-130) – $535
  • Online Green Card Application (DS-260) – $0
  • Financial Support Form (I-864) – $120
  • Biometrics (fingerprints and photo) – $0
  • State Department Processing – $325
  • USCIS Immigrant Fee – $220
  • Total Cost – $1,200

Proposed fees – compare with the original cost listed above:

  • Family Sponsorship Form (I-130) – $555
  • Online Green Card Application (DS-260) – $0
  • Financial Support Form (I-864) – $120
  • Biometrics (fingerprints and photo) – $0
  • State Department Processing – $325
  • USCIS Immigrant Fee – $200
  • Total Cost – $1,200

The cost for someone applying from abroad is actually unchanged. Two costs have a $20 change each but in both directions, so it does not affect the total cost. You could probably argue it seems the USCIS wants to create an incentive for people to apply from abroad, but that is a discussion for a different day.

How the Price Increase Further Obstructs Legal Immigration

The recently proposed changes are a clear effort by the current administration to restrict legal immigration to the U.S. which makes it particularly hard for low-income families to apply for immigration. Fortunately, two courts have already ruled in favor of immigrants in recent cases involving immigration processes. But it seems that the Trump administration is set on increasing fees required to complete immigration applications and it may stop many families from immigrating.

Why is the Government Increasing Application Fees for Immigrants?

Goods and services get more expensive over time when inflation affects its economy. Inflation in the U.S. is fairly low when compared to some third world countries, but it still forces businesses to raise their prices to keep up with the price increases caused by it. It’s only natural that filing fees increase accordingly.

However, the recent USCIS filing fee increase supersedes the inflation rate. Some filing fees increased with up to 80%. The filing fee for citizenship in 1985 was $35. The same filing fee should only have been $85 if it kept to the inflation rate. But it clearly hasn’t and we can only think the government has a plan with the proposed changes.

The USCIS currently claims they need this extra money to service their “overextended system”. They claim they may be $1.3 billion short of their required budget if they don’t raise filing fees.

What Happens Next?

We can only wait and see what the government decides regarding their proposed changes. It’s been published on 14 November 2019, and their changes can’t be overturned unless the courts rule as such (or a new administration reverts to the old fees).

You can at least get your applications in before any new changes are made. Submit your documents and pay your filing fees to capitalize on the current costs. Work with the USCIS to get your applications reviewed as soon as possible to increase your likelihood of success at the cheapest possible cost.

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Conclusion

The current Trump administration has expressed its intentions to reduce immigration and even enforce more removals repeatedly over the past few years. It’s also been noted in the recently proposed changes to filing fees. The USCIS filing fee increase will stop low-income families from immigrating to the U.S.

Use the time you have available to complete your application as soon as possible. You could potentially capitalize on the current filing fees if you are currently seeking a U.S. Green Card or immigrant visa.

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