Does An Increase In USCIS Filing Fees Hurt Immigrant Families?
The head of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Alejandro Mayorkas, recently announced a plan to increase fees for immigration applications. It is estimated that the average fee increase will be about 10%.
For many clients of our Riverside immigration lawyer offices, or those in San Diego or San Bernardino, any increase in filing fees is not good news.
Because several are low wage earners, each time immigration fees are hiked, their dreams are placed on hold.
Making ends meet is already difficult. Saving enough funds to proceed is not an easy task.
Most undocumented workers, of course, worry about drawing attention to their lack of valid residency status. They’re usually willing to accept less than minimum wages in return for earning an income, any income, however low.
How Much Will Immigration Filing Fees Increase?
Family Based Visas
Most likely, the biggest impact will be felt in the area of family-based petitions. These petitions are used when a family member wants to obtain legal status for an immigrant relative.
They represent the necessary first step to gaining legal status.
Consider a Corona family of four which seeks our immigration attorney services.
The father, a lawful permanent resident, wants to file family based visas for his wife and two children. Currently, the fee to file these types of petitions is $355.00. Under the new proposal, the fees would be increased to $420.00. This is an 18% increase.
In the government’s view, a $65.00 increase is not going to stop very many people from applying.
Permanent Residence Applications
Another application which is important to many of our clients is the application for permanent residence. Sometimes called green card applications, the current fee is $930.00.
There is an extra $80.00 charge required for the fingerprints of each family member. The total fees are $1,010.00. Immigrants are also required to pay for a medical examination performed by a USCIS-approved doctor and passport-style photos.
The new proposal would increase the fee to apply for a green card to $965.00. The fingerprints fee would only increase $5.00, up to $85.00. The total cost for these two fees would be raised to $1,050.00. The medical exam and photos will remain additional costs for immigrants.
In 2007, the fees for filing green card applications went up 178%.
Many immigrants applying for permanent residence also seek work authorization. The fee for work authorization documents will go up from $340.00 to $380.00.
As with the family visa petitions, the government doubts the new increases in the total permanent residence package of $80.00 will only deter a few immigrants from going forward.
Over time, the government’s view might be true.
However, as an immigration lawyer in Riverside, San Diego, and San Bernardino, I know the fee increases will affect many immigrant families who live on a limited budget and have to save money to pay filing fees for immigration papers.
Naturalization and Citizenship Applications
One bit of good news.
The fee to become a citizen through filing of a naturalization petition will not change. It remains $595.00. In 2007 naturalization fees went up 69%.
How Will The USCIS Fees Increase Affect Immigrants?
These changes may not be as large as the previous price hike imposed by USCIS. Nonetheless, I disagree with the government’s position. As a green card and citizenship attorneyy, I know the increase in fees will negatively affect several immigrant families.
As noted above, the new fee changes will cause several immigrants to delay the filing of their petitions and applications. The last changes were made only three years ago. The average price increase was 66%. Now USCIS wants to add another 10%. This means that in just three years, prices have went up 76% for immigrants.
Contrary to what the government says, this is a huge increase.
Further, it often takes a long time for permanent resident applications to be processed. Combined with the way immigration laws seems to change almost without warning, the impact of the new fees on immigrants could go deeper than a mere financial burden.
In short, given the current backlog, if immigrants do not have the funds to move forward when it’s their turn, some could potentially face new legal problems later due to their delay.
Why Are The Fees For Immigration Petitions Going Up?
According to USCIS, the increased fees are needed to close a deficit of $200 million for 2010-11.
The agency anticipates receiving $2.1 billion in revenue for the coming year. It projects expenses of $2.3 billion.
Unlike most other government offices, USCIS is primarily a fee-based agency. About 90% of their costs are covered by application fees. This includes the salaries of USCIS officers, clerical employees, office rent, supplies, and equipment.
Most immigrant supporters are not happy about the proposed changes.
Shouldn’t increased fees, they ask, lead to better services?
Crystal Williams, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, acknowledged the current fee increase is better than the previous hike. But in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, she emphasized immigrants “continue to be plagued with poor-quality service.”
Their position is well-taken.
Despite such shortcomings, I strongly encourage all immigrants to pay the necessary fees and move to the next step in their lives.
Filing fees, whatever amount, should be seen as an investment in an immigrant’s future. With the ability to work and live legally in the U.S., immigrants will find more economic, educational, and social doors open to them.
When Will The New USCIS Immigration Fees Go Into Effect?
The fee increases will probably go into effect in late summer.
Your savings for the extra fees should begin today.
Fee waivers are available to immigrants. The government’s decision to grant or deny them is discretionary.
FILING FEES AS OF SEPTEMBER 1, 2013
Three years have passed since this post was published. Thus, here are the current filing fees for various immigration applications.
By Carlos Batara, Immigration Law, Policy, And Politics
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