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Immigration Fees to Increase Effective Dec. 23

Effective December 23, fees for most immigration applications and petitions will increase by an average of 21 percent.

The increase will be the first in six years. A comprehensive review had determined that the USCIS was not recovering the full costs of processing immigrant benefits. Lack of congressional appropriations especially for the asylum, refugee, military naturalization services, and the SAVE program that were ordinarily reliant upon Congress’ budgetary allocation likewise affected this move.

To recover the full cost of services including costs of fraud detection and national security, customer services, case processing and providing benefits without charge to refugee and asylum applicants, the fee increases had to be imposed, said USCIS director Leon Rodriquez.

For those applying for naturalization, there will be an increase in the standard fee for Form N-400 from $595 to $640. Fee waivers will still be available to those who meet the requirements under the law. A reduced fee of $320 will be offered to naturalization applicants with family income greater than 150% and not more than 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

For those who are claiming US citizenship due to birth abroad to US citizen parent(s) and need proof of US citizenship through Form N-600 and N-600K, there will be an increase from $600 and $550, respectively, to $1,170. This is essentially a 95% increase compared to the old schedule and one of the more substantial raises.

Fees for family-based petitions will go up as well. I-129F Application for Alien Fiancé(e) will increase from $340 to $535; I-130 Petitions for Alien Relative from $420 to $535. Under the current fee schedule, the total filing fee for a one-step, concurrent filing of Form I-130, Form I-485, Form I-765 and Form I-131 is $1,490; this will be bumped up to  $1,760. I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence will also increase from $985 to $1,140. I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence will increase from $505 to $595.

Employment-based petitions will not be exempted either. I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker will increase from $325 to $460 which is a 42% increase and one of the highest increases for this service since 2007. I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker will increase from $580 to $700.

I-601 Application for Waiver of Grounds of Excludability and I-601A Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver will both increase from $585 to $930 and $630, respectively. Fees for employment authorization permits (I-765) will increase from $380 to $410. This increase will affect foreign students approved for Optional Practical Training (OPT), spouses of certain nonimmigrant visa holders as well as recipients of DACA and TPS applicants.

Biometric or fingerprinting fee will remain at $85.

Applications and petitions postmarked on or after December 23, 2016 must pay the new fees or they will not be accepted.

Renewing Green Card While Naturalization is Pending

A lawful permanent resident (LPR) who wishes to apply for naturalization should submit his N-400 application while his green card still has at least six (6) months of validity. This is to avoid having to pay the filing fee and biometric fee amounting to $450 for his green card renewal.

While LPRs or green card holders who have resided here in the US for at least 5 years (3 years if married to US citizen) and have met all other requirements for US naturalization can already apply for US citizenship, for some reasons, some wait longer before they apply. A few wait until their ten-year green card is about to expire to apply for naturalization.

It is worth noting that the I-551 or the permanent resident card expires every ten years. To those who want to continue to become green card holders and stay that way, they need to file an I-90 six months before its expiration date.

The USCIS Field Operations Directorate recently clarified in a teleconference that a naturalization applicant with a pending N-400 application must apply for a renewal of his green card if it will expire within six (6) months. This means that the naturalization applicant needs to submit an I-90 with the corresponding filing fees. USCIS will issue an Alien Documentary Identification and Telecommunication (ADIT) stamp as temporary proof of permanent residence upon showing of an I-90 receipt notice.

Take note that if your green card has already expired, you may encounter problems when you travel, seek or keep employment or apply for public benefits.

In addition, not carrying a valid green card is considered a misdemeanor. Section 264 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) states, “Every alien in the United States . . . shall be issued a certificate of alien registration or an alien registration receipt card in such form and manner and at such time as shall be prescribed under regulations . . Every alien, eighteen years of age and over, shall at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession any certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card issued to him . . .. Any alien who fails to comply with these provisions shall be guilty of a misdemeanor  …” The punishment for this misdemeanor is a fine of $100 and/or imprisonment for not more than 30 days.

If an LPR has a criminal record he may be putting himself at risk when he renews his green card. He should consult an immigration attorney before submitting his I-90 application. If his crime is a ground for deportation, he may be placed under removal proceedings and will appear before an immigration judge.

Crimes that may subject a person to deportation include aggravated felony, crimes involving drugs, domestic violence, crimes involving moral turpitude and sex crimes.

This procedure for renewing an expired green card does not apply to those who obtained conditional residence on account of their marriage to US citizens or lawful permanent residents or on account of their EB-5 commercial enterprise and financial investment. Conditional residents are issued a green card that is valid for two years. In this case, they need to file a different form, which is I-751 to Remove the Conditions of their green card if they obtained it through marriage or I-829 if they obtained it through EB-5 investment.

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