USCIS: New Filing Fees Take Effect November 23rd

Back in June, we called attention to a new fee proposal then being floated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), noting that the fee changes – mostly increases – were needed to plug a $200 million hole in the agency’s budget. (See NYT Editorial: USCIS Fee Increases Not the Answer, MurthyBlog, 30.Jun.2010.) The agency considered a welter of public comments before concluding that the new fees would go forward.

Now it’s official. Just in time for the fiscal new year, which starts October 1st, USCIS announced its final decision on a new round of changes to the filing fees that provide about 90 percent of its annual budget. (See After Public Comment, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Announces Final Rule Adjusting Fees for Immigration Benefits, USCIS Fact Sheet, 23.Sep.2010.) For the most part, “change” means “increase,” although in some categories, application fees actually will be reduced, including:

  • Petition for Alien Fiancé/e (Form I-129-F) – reduced by $115, to $340
  • Application to Extend / Change Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-539) – reduced by $10, to $290
  • Application to Adjust Status from Temporary to Permanent Resident (Form I-698) – reduced by $350, to $1,020
  • Application for Family Unity Benefits (Form I-817) – reduced by $5, to $435
  • Application for Replacement Naturalization / Citizenship Document (Form N-565) – reduced by $35, to $345
  • Application for Travel Document (Form I-131), when filed for a Refugee Travel Document

The USCIS did not increase the filing fee for naturalization applications, and also eliminated two citizenship-related fees for U.S. service members and veterans who are eligible to apply for naturalization using form N-400 with no fee:

  • Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (Form N-336)
  • Application for Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-600)

Other good news includes the expanded availability of fee waivers for certain benefits available to humanitarian parole applicants, victims of trafficking, and persons seeking to appeal a denial of any application or petition that did not initially require a fee.

On the other hand – and it’s a big other hand – the USCIS will raise application and petition fees by a weighted average of 10 percent. Among others, fees will increase for:

  • Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card (I-90) – up $75, to $365
  • Petition for Alien Relative (I-130) – up $65, to $420
  • Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker(I-140) – up $105 to $580
  • Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status (I-485) – up $55 to $985; the biometrics fee will rise by $5, $85
  • Application for Employment Authorization (I-765) – up $40, to $380

The new fees will take effect on November 23, 2010. Applications postmarked or filed on November 23rd, or after, will need to pay the new fees. (For details, see the revised fee schedule on the USCIS Fact Sheet, cited above.)

As we have noted in the past, USCIS does not have much choice but to raise its fees, because Congress requires the agency to provide 90 percent of its budget from fee revenue. In a time of fiscal constraint, when new taxes are about as popular as mosquitoes – maybe even (shudder!) bedbugs – it seems unlikely that Congress will provide the USCIS with enough funding to hold the line against fee increases. Add to that the resentment towards immigrants in some quarters, and it seems highly unlikely that any member of Congress would stick her or his neck out to increase taxpayer funding for the USCIS – despite the fact that a well-functioning immigration system is nothing if not a public good.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.