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New USCIS Fees Are Unreasonably High

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced on September 24 that fees for immigration petitions and applications will go up an average of 10% on November 23, 2010. Any petition or application postmarked on or after that date but which does not contain the new fee will be rejected as improperly filed.

The USCIS explained that the fee increase is necessary because it has experienced a reduction in federal fund appropriation and lower than projected fee revenue in 2008, 2009, and low revenue for this year.

Fees for 30 applications and petitions will increase while fees for 6 applications will be reduced. The fee for naturalization application will be unchanged.

The 6 applications and petitions that have reduced fees because of lower processing costs are Petition for Alien Fiancé (I-129F) which will be reduced from $455 to $340; Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (I-539), $300 to $290; Application to Adjust Status from Temporary to Permanent Residents (I-698), $1370 to $1020; Application for Family Unity Benefits (I-817), $440 to $435; Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document (N-565), $380 to $345; and Application for Travel Document (I-131) when filed for Refugee Travel Documents.

Among the applications and petitions affected by the fee increase are Petition for Alien Relative (I-130), from $355 to $420; Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (I-140) from $475 to $580; Application for Employment Authorization (I-765), from $340 to $380; Application to Replace Green Card (I-90), from $290 to $365; Application to Adjust Status (I-485) from $930 to $985; Notice of Appeal or Motion (I-290B), from $585 to $630.

Three new fees will be imposed, namely, a $165 fee for recovering USCIS costs of processing immigrant visas granted by the Department of State, a $6230 fee for Application for Regional Center under the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program and a $615 for Civil Surgeon Designation.

Considering that the USCIS fees increased by 66% only three years ago the new fees are clearly excessive. The increase will hurt families, lower- wage immigrants, and small businesses.

It should also be pointed out that the fee for citizenship applications was increased by about 70% to $675 in 2007. This fee hike has been a serious obstacle to many immigrants who want to become citizens.

Immigrant advocates maintain that the fee increase is not justified as it will not improve the quality of immigration services. According to them, immigration services have deteriorated since the significant fee increase in 2007.

In opposing the fee hike, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) said that “many of the government expenses being underwritten by these fees are unrelated to the services for which fees are being paid. These are matters of public benefit and should be funded by appropriations, not applicants.”

AILA in its leadership blog also said that “these fee increases feel like a punch in the stomach… because they come at a time when the quality of decision-making and the ability to correct even the simplest errors or address basic problems with the USCIS are at an all-time low.”

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