A Closer Look at the Biden Administration’s Pitch for Higher USCIS Fees

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently unveiled a new proposal that could dramatically alter the current fee structure for various immigration-related forms and services. New York citizenship lawyers are closely examining how these changes may impact applicants.

Why does the USCIS want to increase fees?

The proposed rule, known as the “US Citizenship and Immigration Services Fee Schedule and Changes to Certain Other Immigration Benefit Request Requirements,” will lead to an increase in most immigration filing fees. Though the proposal includes some minor fee reductions, the new fee structure will substantially increase the costs for certain applications

According to USCIS, the increase is intended to help the agency recover operating costs and handle the rising expenses of the incoming asylum population. Those looking to understand these changes in detail can consult a New York citizenship lawyer for guidance.

Notable changes beyond fees

Aside from higher fees, the proposal includes several significant changes:

  • The new policy will aim to reduce or eliminate fees for those less likely to afford them while putting more financial burden on those who can afford to pay.
  • Certain forms like I-131 and I-765 will now require separate filing fees when filed with Form I-485.
  • The separate biometric services fee will now be part of the main benefit fee.

A New York citizenship lawyer can offer a comprehensive analysis of how these changes might affect individual applicants.

Impact on I-485 Applicants

  • I-485 applicants will witness a significant increase in the filing fee, rising from $1,225 to $1,540.
  • The agency will now charge separate fees for Forms I-485, I-765, and I-131, increasing costs substantially for adjustment status to permanent resident applicants.
  • Notably, the proposed rule will remove the reduced fee for children filing with a parent, leading to a 105% increase.

Family-based immigrant visa petitions to cost more

The new USCIS filing fees are set to make the process of petitioning family members for a green card more expensive.

  • The fee for Form I-129F (used to petition a fiancé for a K-1 visa) will increase by 35% to $720, adding $185 to the cost.
  • Additionally, the fee for filing Form I-130, which helps family members acquire a green card, will go up by 53% to $820.
  • Some individuals may be able to lessen the impact of the $285 increase by filing online.

Moderate citizenship fee increase

U.S. citizenship applicants will face a moderate increase in fees with the new USCIS adjustments.

  • The fee for Form N-400 (for naturalization) will rise by 5% to $760.
  • Seniors (75 and older) will particularly feel the change as the integration of the biometric service fee will lead to an effective increase of 19% for them.

President Biden’s Executive Order (E.O. 14012), which is aimed at improving legal immigration systems, will help keep the increase for naturalization applicants lower. This order might even lead to fee reductions, but USCIS still needs to recover the costs of handling N-400 applications.

Changes in the cost of maintaining a green card

For permanent residents who need to renew or replace a 10-year green card, the costs will actually go down.

  • The fee for Form I-90 (the application to replace a Permanent Resident Card) will drop from $540 to $465 for those who file on paper. This move reverses the previous trend of continuous fee increases.
  • However, conditional residents with a 2-year green card will see a significant rise in USCIS fees. When the proposed changes take effect, the cost to file Form I-751 (the petition to remove conditions on residence) will go up from $680 to $1,195. This represents a substantial $515 increase for families, though how this will affect children on the same petition remains uncertain.

When will the new fees be implemented?

Not immediately. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) needs to follow a process:

  • First, the DHS must announce the intended change in the Federal Register, providing an official notice to the public.
  • A 60-day comment period allows immigration stakeholders and the public to provide feedback on the proposal.
  • DHS then reviews all comments but may finalize a rule that is similar to the initial proposal, even if adjustments are possible based on feedback.
  • After evaluating the input, DHS needs to publish a final rule in the Federal Register, detailing the new fee schedule and possibly making modifications.
  • The final rule includes the date when the new fees will begin to apply, marking the start of the new fee structure.

This structured process ensures that changes to regulations are transparent and allow for public participation, although the final decision rests with the agency. The DHS may choose not to accommodate public comments in the final rule, finalizing it as initially proposed.

If you’re seeking to understand how these changes may affect your immigration status, or if you need guidance on filing the necessary forms under the new structure, consulting with a knowledgeable New York citizenship lawyer is essential. At Berd & Klauss, we are closely monitoring these developments and are prepared to assist you in navigating these new regulations. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and ensure that you are well-positioned to respond to these changes in the immigration landscape.