USCIS fees to increase for key immigration forms

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) a part of the Department of Homeland Security that oversees lawful immigration to the U.S., will increase filing fees by an average of 21%. Applications or petitions mailed, postmarked, or otherwise filed on or after December 23, 2016, must include the new fees.

While fees for some petitions will remain the same, more than three dozen immigration and naturalization forms will see significant increases, as well as applications and other similar services. The fee adjustment, that will be in effect starting December 23, 2016, starting at $15 per application and going up to as much as hundreds of dollars for certain immigration categories. Fees for issuing Green Cards for new immigrants (Immigrant fees) and for biometrics (fingerprinting) remain the same.

USCIS is primarily a “fee-based” agency, more than 90% of USCIS operating costs are covered by fees paid for immigration services and applications. USCIS is required to do a fee study every two years and propose fee levels proportional to the costs they are incurring. One promise the USCIS made in 2007 was that the fee increase would help drop the average time it takes to process an application from seven months to five months; today, the average processing time is under six.

 Why is the USCIS increasing the fees?

The USCIS budget is currently facing a $560 million budget shortfall and has determined that the current fee structure is not able to cover the cost of its services. Because of this, the USCIS has no choice but to raise prices on immigration form processing and services.

This is the first time USCIS increased its fees in 7 consecutive years; the last time was in November 2010. Director León Rodríguez and his colleagues said they are well aware of the effects this USCIS fees increase may have on the general public. This is why the US Citizenship and Immigration Services decided against the fees revision both in 2012 and in 2014. However, since USCIS’ operational capabilities are entirely dependent on customer’s fees to operate, the undergoing changes and fee increase are now necessary to ensure the US Immigration Services continue to be maintained effectively and efficiently.

The first discussion of the USCIS fees increase was published for review and open for comment after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) first released the proposal on May 4, 2016. The USCIS conducted a detailed fee review for the fiscal year 2016/2017, concluding that the current fees do not fully cover the cost of the Immigration Services provided.

USCIS fees for 2017

The full list of the increased fees is published on USCIS’s fees page. Following are some highlights for the most popular forms:

US Citizenship Application

  • N-400 old price: $595
  • N-400 new price: $640
  • Price difference: $45
  • % of increase: 8%

DHS has established a new three-level fee model for N-400 US Citizenship application:

  • The initial fee of $595 will be increased by 8%, for a total cost of $640.
  • Applicants who meet the fee waiver requirements will not be charged extra fees.
  • DHS will charge naturalization applicants a reduced fee of $320 if their family income is greater than 150% and under 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. If the total household income is lower than 150% of the FPG, the service fee will be waived.

4.3.1. N-400 US citizenship application: Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG) explained Case 1. If < 200% FPG, the full fee amount to be paid Case 2. If < 150% - 200% FPG, half of the fee amount to be paid Case 3. If >150% FPG, payable fee is waived

Family-based Green Card Application

  • I-130 old price: $420
  • I-130 new price: $535
  • Price difference: $115
  • % of increase: 27%

Despite the negative public reaction, Family-based Green Card I-130 application form will increase by $115. The Department of Homeland Security realizes that the $115 may seem disproportionate given the present adjudication time of 45 minutes. However, it is important to keep in mind that USCIS is funded entirely by the fees based on a full cost recovery model.

Also fee increases like this one also include a surcharge to help cover services that the USCIS provides for free, like naturalizing members of the military.

Green Card Renewal or Replacement Application

  • I-90 old price: $36
  • I-90 new price: $455
  • Price difference: $90
  • % of increase: 25%

The main reason for the 25% increase for the Green Card I-90 Renewal and Replacement form is the USCIS higher cost baseline for the fiscal year 2016/2017. Specifically to fully cover the cost of certain fee-exempt services. Some of the comments in the DHS open comment section argued that since USCIS sometimes requires citizenship applicants to file I-90 if their Permanent Resident Cards expire within six (6) months of filing U.S. Citizenship Application, N-400 form, when the two forms can be filed together in a quick session.

This proposal suggests that USCIS can reduce the combined fee for the two forms. However, it is important to understand that DHS is required to set the fees regardless of the combined adjudicator’s time. Therefore, the reduced combined fee proposal was rejected.

Employment Authorization Card Application

  • I-765 old price: $380
  • I-765 new price: $410
  • Price difference: $30
  • % of increase: 8%

The DHS approved the $30 increase for all I-765 employment authorization applications. During the open comments period, many commentators argued that there were some interim benefits, directly associated with the EAD card renewal. However, the DSH has decided not to provide interim benefits for new or pending applicants for the following reasons:

Adjustment of status applicants who filed on or after July 30, 2007, paid a lesser amount of $325 USD when filing the I-485 employment-based form. A fee interim approval for all I-765 applicants would imply greater costs for other related applications and petitions.

Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

When applying for DACA, applicants are required also to submit Employment Authorization Document, Form I-765. While the I-821D DACA form’s application fee has not increased, EAD Form has.

Starting December 23, 2016, the EAD Form filing fees will increase by $30, consequently increasing DACA application fees.

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