In a recent development, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced significant fee increases for various immigration applications, marking the first major adjustment since 2016. These changes, scheduled to take effect on April 1, 2024, will impact individuals and families seeking to navigate the immigration process. To help you understand and navigate these changes effectively, let’s delve into the key details and strategies to avoid higher fees.
Understanding the Fee Adjustments
The fee adjustments affect a range of immigration applications, with notable increases in fees for family-based immigration applications. For instance:
- Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) will see a 26% increase, with paper filing costing $675 and online filing at $625.
- Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) will rise by 18%, with the standalone application costing $1,440. One notable change is that the I-485 application, which covers the adjustment of status for permanent residency, will no longer include free work and travel permit applications. Previously priced at $1225, the total cost for this package has surged to $2330. This significant jump underscores the importance of understanding the new fee structure to avoid any surprises during the application process.
- The cost of filing a complete marriage green card case will jump from $1760 to $3005!
These increases can significantly impact individuals and families navigating the immigration process, making it imperative to plan and submit applications before the deadline to avoid higher fees.
Impact on Employment-Based Applications
Employment-based applications are among the hardest hit, with fee increases reaching up to 200%. These changes necessitate careful planning and budgeting for individuals and employers seeking to sponsor foreign workers for employment in the United States.
Simplification of Biometrics Fees
In a move towards streamlining the application process, biometrics fees, where needed, are now folded into every application. This simplification eliminates the need to calculate biometrics fees separately, making the overall process easier to manage for applicants.
Strategies for Applicants
Given the impending fee increase, prospective applicants, especially those pursuing family-based immigration, are urged to submit their applications well before April 1, 2024. Timeliness and accuracy are crucial in application submissions to avoid potential delays or rejections. Using an Immigration Attorney can help ensure your application is complete and submitted on time.
Despite the fee hikes, there’s a silver lining for some applicants. More individuals will now qualify for fee waivers, particularly for the N-400 application for naturalization. The revised guidelines broaden the pool of people eligible to pay reduced fees, offering financial relief to those facing economic hardship.
Background of the USCIS Fee Increase
USCIS is unique among federal agencies in that it is primarily fee-funded, which means its budget comes from application fees, not taxes or Congress. This self-sustaining model makes periodic fee revisions crucial to the agency’s functioning. Since 2016, the fee structure of USCIS hasn’t been enough to meet its running costs. The COVID-19 pandemic made things worse by causing a significant decrease in immigration applications, which led to less money coming in. On top of this, the agency has been struggling to deal with a growing pile of applications and to keep providing good customer service.
Start Your Case Now: Time is of the Essence
It’s crucial to emphasize the importance of initiating your case promptly. USCIS requires applications to arrive before April 1st to avoid the new fee structure. Given the time required to prepare paperwork and gather evidence, waiting until the last minute could jeopardize meeting this deadline.
Don’t wait until it’s too late. Begin your immigration journey today to ensure ample time for thorough preparation and submission. Starting early will enable you to navigate the process smoothly and avoid any potential delays or complications.
For more information and a comprehensive list of USCIS fee changes, including detailed explanations, visit the Official USCIS Website. Stay informed, stay proactive, and embark on your immigration journey with confidence.