On October 2, 2020, USCIS will increase its filing fees!
On August 3, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a final rule which significantly alters the fees associated with certain immigration applications. The final rule will take effect on October 2, 2020, and includes increases on average of 20% to all fees already in place. USCIS promulgated this rule in order to generate revenue for the department after determining that “the current fees do not recover the full cost of providing adjudication and naturalization services.” In other words, according to the agency, without the fee increase, USCIS would be underfunded by about 1 billion dollars per year. Now it is applicants themselves who must make up the difference out of their own pockets, increasing the financial burden for low-income applicants, and further delaying adjudications and access to citizenship or other lawful immigrant status for many more.
WHAT STAYS THE SAME?
The following will be unaffected by the new rule:
Fee waivers that are established by statute. Fee waivers that are established by statute will not change under the new rule. Individuals who will continue to be eligible for fee waivers include VAWA self-petitioners, battered spouses of certain nonimmigrants, U visa applicants, T visa applicants, TPS applicants, and certain Special Immigrants. For a list of waivers that have been eliminated by the final rule, see below.
The cost of renewing DACA. The cost for renewing a previously submitted and approved DACA application will remain the same, with a $410 fee for employment authorization and $85 for biometrics. Note, however, that USCIS is not currently accepting new applications for DACA. See the announcement here.
Premium Processing Fees – But Not Premium Processing Times. Premium processing allows for an applicant to request expedited 15-day adjudication of certain employment-based immigration requests. The fee for premium processing will remain the same, at $1,440. But the timeline for premium processing will change under the final rule: from 15 calendar days to 15 business days, effectively adding six days to this adjudicative process. Under the current timeline, if someone was to submit an application for premium processing on Wednesday, August 26, 2020, then the adjudication would be completed by Thursday, September 10, 2020. Under the new rules, the adjudication period would be extended until Wednesday, September 16, 2020.
WHAT WILL CHANGE? NATURALIZATION AND STATUS RELATED FEES.
Increases in fees will affect the following immigration petitions:
Adjustment of Status to Lawful Permanent Residency. Currently, an adjustment of status application (Form I-485) costs $1,225 for most applicants, which includes the cost of concurrently filed applications for work authorization (Form I-765) and a travel document (Form I-131). USCIS will unbundle the filing fees for these applications resulting in the total price of that package increasing to $2,270.
Naturalization. USCIS will almost double the naturalization application (Form N-400) fee, increasing it from $640 to $1,170. Additionally, it will eliminate the option to request a reduced fee as well as fee waivers for naturalization applications.
Affirmative Asylum. USCIS will impose a new fee of $50 on applications for asylum (Form I-589), and require that asylum seekers also pay a $550 fee for their initial work permit application, making the United States one of only four countries in the world that levy such a fee on asylum seekers. The other four are Iran, Fiji, and Australia.
Provisional Waivers for Unlawful Presence. The Form I–601A application for a provisional unlawful presence waiver will increase from $630 to $960.
WHAT WILL CHANGE? WORK-RELATED APPLICATIONS.
Increases in fees will affect the following work-related petitions:
Work Authorization. The application for work authorization (Form I-765) will increase from $410 to $550, with the exception of I-765s filed by recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which will remain the same.
Nonimmigrant Worker Petitions. USCIS is separating the former Form I-129 into several new I-129 forms by worker type. The filing fee will increase from $460 to $695.
OTHER NOTABLE CHANGES.
Fee Waivers. USCIS currently provides fee waivers for applicants who are experiencing financial hardship rendering them unable to pay the required fees, or whose income is at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines at the time of filing. Effective October 2, 2020, most of these waivers have been cut or otherwise eliminated, including those for applications for naturalization, adjustment of status, green card replacement and renewals (Form I-90), and employment authorization. USCIS will disallow fee waivers for any applicant who is subject to an affidavit of support requirement, is already a sponsored immigrant, or is subject to public charge inadmissibility.
Online Filing. The benefit conferred by the final rule is that individuals will get a $10 discount on fees for applications that are filed online, as opposed to by mail. Where online applications are accepted, of course.
WHO CAN I CONTACT ABOUT THIS?
We recommend that you contact a qualified immigration attorney, including our firm, about your specific circumstance and how it could potentially be affected by the fee increases.