After months of debate following the USCIS’ announcement last year that it would raise all of the filing fees on immigration applications, the USCIS issued a press release Tuesday, May 29, 2007, making the fee increases effective on July 30, 2007. With the stated goal of “building an Immigration Service for the 21st Century,” the USCIS has determined to move forward and implement the fee increases, over the objections of thousands of individuals, civic organizations and immigration attorneys. With July 30, 2007 just two months away, people considering filing their applications for Naturalization, Adjustment of Status, visa petitions and any other USCIS application, should file NOW to beat the clock and avoid paying the increased fees!
The USCIS’ final rule implementing fee increases from 50% to nearly 300% on the most common immigration benefits applications will take effect on July 30, 2007. Currently, the fee to file an I-485, Application to Adjust Status is $325.00 for an adult and $225 for a child agreed 14 or under. The new filing fee for an I-485 is $930 for an adult and $600 for a child 14 or under, provided the child is filing along with a parent. This whopping 286% increase received the most criticism from the public, which is doubtful that the USCIS’ services will improve to an extent warranting the increase.
The USCIS, which has long carried a reputation for delays in processing applications and less than model customer service, insists that the fee increases are required in order to improve customer service. The USCIS predicts that the fee increases will result in an average reduction in processing times of approximately 20% by the end of 2009. Not persuaded, critics are questioning how a 20% improvement in processing times justified fee increases of nearly 300%.
The fees on the most common applications will be increased as follows: N-400, Application for Naturalization, from $330 to $605; I-140 Petition for Immigrant Worker, from $195 to $305; I-130 Petition for Alien Relative, from $190 to $355; I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, from $190 to $320 (not including the current supplemental fees for H and L visa applications) I-539, Application for Extension of Change of Status, from $200 to $300; Motion to Reopen from $385 to $545.
The USCIS has indicated that the increases are required to “continue strengthening the security and integrity of the immigration system, improving customer service, and modernizing business operations for the 21st Century.” To the average consumer, however, this explanation is inadequate. For example, a foreign national seeking to file an I-485, Application to Adjust Status, with an I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, based on an I-130 Visa Petition filed by his US Citizen spouse, will be required to fork over $1705.00, as opposed to the current “package fee” of $750.00.
With much of the immigration discussion of late centering around Congressional proposals for “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” the real and immediate problem of these prohibitive fee increases has been lost in the shuffle. One could argue that the USCIS has in fact “priced out” a segment of the population seeking immigration benefits by raising the fees to such an extent that lower-income people will be discouraged from filing to legalize their status, even if they are eligible. Although any increases in fees could be subject to change in the future, anyone contemplating filing for immigration benefits currently should file NOW and beat the clock!