USCIS Increases Filing Fees for First Time in 6 Years
For the first time in six years, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will increase filing fees for some applications and petitions. On average, there will be a 21% fee increase. The new fees go into effect on December 23, 2016; thus, new forms postmarked or filed on or after December 23rd must include the new fee amounts.
According to USCIS, the fee increase is necessary because the agency does not receive appropriated funding from Congress for many of its services. In its press release announcing the fee increase, the agency states, “USCIS is almost entirely funded by the fees paid by applicants and petitioners for immigration benefits. The law requires USCIS to conduct fee reviews every two years to determine the funding levels necessary to administer the nation’s immigration laws, process benefit requests and provide the infrastructure needed to support those activities.”
While the fee increase does not affect all applications and petitions, there are notable changes on the list. For example, forms related to naturalization will see significant fee increases.
The standard fee for Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, will increase from $595 to $640 (not including the $85 biometrics fee). The agency will offer reduced filing fees for applicants with limited means. Applicants with family income greater than 150% but not more than 200% of federal poverty guidelines will pay a fee of $320. Fee waivers will continue to be available for certain applicants.
The fee for Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship, will increase from $600 to $1,170.
Family based immigrant visa petitions will also see a filing fee increase. Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, will see a fee increase of $115, from $420 to $535. Businesses looking to sponsor nonimmigrant workers will also be subject to higher fees. For instance, the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129, will increase from $325 to $460. This is just the base application fee. It does not include other fees applicants may pay for H1-B or L-1 visas via Form 1-129, such as the Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee, American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 fee (when required), and the Premium Processing fee (if applicable).
These major fee increases once again demonstrate the importance of providing USCIS with appropriated funds from Congress; fees alone should not serve as the primary revenue source for the agency. Although in some instances the fee increases are small, many applicants will face the kind of fee increases that may add additional barriers to the immigration process.