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Statutes of Liberty: The only certainty in life — Prices go up

This sponsored column is by Law Office of James Montana PLLC. All questions about it should be directed to James Montana, Esq., Doran Shemin, Esq., and Laura Lorenzo, Esq., practicing attorneys at The Law Office of James Montana PLLC, an immigration-focused law firm located in Falls Church, Virginia. The legal information given here is general in nature. If you want legal advice, contact us for an appointment.

USCIS fee increases could result in ducky times for the agency’s budget.

USCIS is required by statute to re-evaluate its fees every two years.

Naturally, the fees haven’t changed for six years. Partially, that’s due to litigation — when the Trump Administration tried to increase fees massively (for, we thought, pretextual reasons), the federal courts said no.

The Biden Administration’s plan to increase fees is broadly distributed across several classes. In short, the fees are going to hit the following groups: businesses and individual green card applicants. According to the Biden Administration, extra fees imposed on businesses will go to fund asylum adjudication at the border.

What are the fee increases?

Everyone pays more, but especially businesses and green card applicants.

The big news for individuals is as follows:

  • Citizenship application fees jump from $725 to $760 (a small hop).
  • Green card application fees jump from $1,225 to $2,820 (a big leap!)

The big news for businesses is as follows:

  • H-1B lottery registration costs go up  from $10 to $215.
  • H-1B application fees increase from $460 to $1,380, including the new $600 asylum support surcharge.

Premium processing fees don’t change — at $2,500, costs stay flat — but, just like you experience shrinkflation at the grocery story, businesses will see service decline without a drop in price. Premium processing will now mean an answer from USCIS within 15 business days rather than 15 calendar days.

Does this agency deserve more money?

Maybe. We’re skeptical. We favor efficient and fair administration of the law, but USCIS has not shown itself to be an efficient steward of public funds.

Take a look at these processing times, helpfully provided by DHS’s own statistics arm.

Lost your green card? Sixteen months. It used to be four, within the memory of our oldest lawyer. Applying for a green card based on marriage to a U.S. citizen at the Baltimore Field Office? Four years. (In Virginia, it’s better — just a year and a half!)

USCIS’s budget has increased markedly over this time. Presidential administrations have come and gone. The Service still can’t get its work done efficiently.

These fees won’t go into effect for at least another sixty days, so don’t hurry to file an application before the time is right.

Questions about the new fees? Ask away. We appreciate questions and will do our best to respond.

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