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Statutes of Liberty: Most immigration benefits will cost more money after April 1

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., Janice Chen, Esq., and Austen Soare, 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.

Immigrating to the United States costs money. One has to pay for transportation and sometimes moving furniture and other personal items across vast lands and huge oceans.  But just getting the paperwork to immigrate in the first places costs money.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the sub-agency within the Department of Homeland Security that processes immigration benefit requests, like work permit applications, H-1B visa petitions, and petitions for family members. Historically, USCIS’ operations have been funded either fully or mostly through the filing fees applicants and petitioners pay to have their benefit processed.

A lot of those fees are about to change. USCIS published a final rule on January 31 that a change in the fee schedule will go into effect on April 1. Below we discuss some of the biggest changes and how we think it will impact the average client.

One of the biggest changes is the price difference USCIS has created for online vs. paper filing. For many common forms, like applications for renewing a green card, naturalization, and family petitions, there will be a $50.00 filing fee discount to file online. In our opinion, this is unfair and problematic.

First, there are many people who, for various reasons, are not tech-literate and will struggle to navigate the online filing system. Indeed, sometimes even we, as lawyers, struggle with it. Second, while online filing will, in theory, help USCIS reduce its workload, we see the $50.00 upcharge as a tax on those who may not have access to a computer.  In our opinion, the fees should be egalitarian and uniform regardless of the mode of filing.

So, what are the actual new fees? Here is a breakdown of changes in cost to some of the most common forms we file:

  • Form I-130, petition for a family member
    • Current fee: $535.00
    • New fee (online): $625.00
    • New fee (paper): $675.00
  • Form I-140, immigrant petition for a foreign national worker
    • Current fee: $700.00
    • New fee (paper only): $715.00
  • Form I-485, green card application (with fingerprinting fee included)
    • Current fee: $1,225.00
    • New fee (paper only): $1,440.00
  • Form I-765, work permit application (with fingerprinting fee included)
    • Current fee: $495.00
    • New fee (online): $470.00
    • New fee (paper): $520.00
  • Form N-400, application for naturalization (within fingerprinting fee included)
    • Current fee: $725.00
    • New fee (online): $710.00
    • New fee (paper): $760.00

As you can see, most fees went up if the applicant chooses to file on paper. However, sometimes the applicant will pay less than before if the application is filed online. For example, filing to renew a green card currently costs $455.00 no matter the mode of filing. After April 1, filing online will only cost $415.00.

The biggest change that we saw in the fee schedule was the H-1B lottery ticket entry fee. Currently, a ticket costs $10.00 per entry. After April 1, each ticket will cost $215.00, a 2,050% increase!

If you or someone you know is eligible to file a request for an immigration benefit, we recommend that the application be filed before April 1 to take advantage of the current fees. Based on past experience, we also anticipate some confusion at the beginning of April regarding whether fees are correct depending on when the application was received versus when it was actually processed.

As always, we welcome your comments and will do our best to respond.

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