Labor Immigration Law

United States Labor Immigration Law News and Analysis

Fees Articles

New USCIS Fee for Immigrants Entering the US for First Time After Consular Processing

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) has announced that effective February 1, 2013, USCIS will begin collecting an additional USCIS Immigrant Fee of $165.00 from foreign nationals seeking admission as permanent residents to the U.S.    The fee will apply to immigrant visa applicants who have received their visa approval from a U.S. Consulate abroad and must be paid directly to the U.S. before the immigrants (and their families) travel to the U.S. for the first time as immigrants.

What is the USCIS Immigrant Fee?

In its press release, USCIS explains that the fee was established by the September 24, 2010 fee change rule (last time the fees were revised in a substantial manner) and will is being introduced now after collaboration between USCIS and the Department of State (“DOS”) on how to best collect the fee without disrupting the existing procedures.  The fee is imposed to recover the costs of processing immigrant visas in the United States after immigrant visa holders receive their visa packages from DOS. This includes staff time to handle, file and maintain the immigrant visa package, and the cost of producing and delivering the permanent resident card.    See Federal Register notice.

It is important to understand that this fee is in addition to the fees already collected by USCIS and DOS (via the National Visa Center).

How Should the New Fee be Paid?

The new fee will have to be paid online through USCIS website after immigrant visa applicants receive their visa package from DOS (usually the U.S. Consulate) and before they depart to the U.S.   DOS will be providing such applicants with specific information on how to submit payment when they attend their consular interview.  Acceptable methods of payment would be checking account information or debit/credit card, drawn on U.S. funds.

Who is Affected by the New Fee?

All immigrant visa applicants who process their immigrant visas through a U.S. Consulate abroad (including Canada and Mexico) will be required to pay the new fee, starting February 1, 2013.   USCIS processes approximately 36,000 immigrant visa packages (green card “activations”) each month.  Please note that permanent residency applicants who process their green cards from within the U.S. will not have to pay the new fee — for example, I-485 applicants to adjust status from within the U.S. will not have to pay the fee.   Also, prospective adoptive parents whose child will enter the United States under the Orphan or Hague processes are exempt from the new fee.

What Happens If the Fee is Not Paid?

The applicant will not receive a green card until the required USCIS Immigrant fee is paid.    However, failure to pay does not affect the lawful status of the applicant.   While the applicant can use their Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Form I-94, Arrival and Departure Record, for one year to document they are a lawful permanent resident, once that I-94 stamp expires, the applicant will need to possess a green card as evidence of their lawful permanent resident status.

Conclusion

We are hopeful that USCIS and DOS will establish a clear process to inform applicants, especially those who are currently undergoing their immigrant process, of the new requirement to pay the fee before the green card is produced.   Our office will continue to monitor this new fee and related procedures and provide updates.   Please feel free to subscribe to our free weekly newsletter to obtain developments on this and related topics.   If our office can be of any help, please feel free to contact us.

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US Consular Visa Processing Fees to Change April 13, 2012

Effective April 13, 2012, the Department of State is changing the visa processing fees.   Some of the fees will increase, while some will decrease.  For example, the fees for most nonimmigrant visa applications and Border Crossing Cards will increase.  On the other hand, all immigrant visa processing fees will decrease (some by a substantial amount).

Nonimmigrant Visas — Fees Increase

The Department of State is required to recover, as must as possible, the cost of processing a visa application and a stamp through the collection of application fees.  According to the Department of State, for a number of reasons, the current fees no longer cover the actual cost of processing nonimmigrant visas. As a result, the nonimmigrant visa fee increase will support the addition and expansion of overseas facilities, as well as additional staffing required to meet increased visa demand.

Although most categories of nonimmigrant visa processing fees will increase, the fee for E visas (treaty-traders and treaty-investors) and K visas (for fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens) will decrease.

Type of Visa Previous Fee New Fee
Tourist, Business, Transit, Crew Member, Student, Exchange Visitor, and Journalist visas $140 $160 ()
Petition-Based visas (H, L, O, P, Q, and R) $150 $190 ()
Treaty Investor and Trader visas (E) $390 $270 ()
Fiancé(e) visas (K) $350 $240 ()
Border Crossing Cards (age 15 and older) $140 $160 ()
Border Crossing Cards (under age 15) $14 $15 ()


Immigrant Visas – Fees Decrease

Because of a reallocation of costs associated with immigrant visas, all categories of immigrant visa processing fees will decrease as shown below.  Some of the fee decreases are fairly significant.

Type of Visa Previous Fee New Fee
Immediate Relative and Family Preference Applications $330 $230 ()
Employment-Based Applications $720 $405 ()
Other Immigrant Visa Applications $305 $220 ()
Diversity Visa Program Fee $440 $330 ()
Determining Returning Resident Status $380 $275 ()


Conclusion

We welcome the Department of State’s efforts to make its services more affordable and for its fees to reflect the actual cost of services provided.   It should be noted that it has been thought that some of the weaker demand in certain immigration visa categories, during the past few years, has been thought to be due to the high fees.    By lowering the immigrant visa fees, the Department of State may be addressing concerns that some of its services are pricing some applicants out.

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USCIS Revamps Fee Waiver Application Process and Criteria

Along with the USCIS filing fee increase which went into effect on November 23, 2010, USCIS has revamped the guidelines, criteria and application process for filing fee waivers.   While granting a waiver is still in USCIS’s sole discretion, the process and qualifications are now more transparent.

Which Forms are Eligible for a Fee Waiver?

A fee waiver may be requested based on an inability to pay for the following:

  1. General Fee Waivers: Forms I-90, I-191, I-751, I-765, I-817, I-821, I-881, N-300, N-336, N-400, N-470, N-565, N-600, N-600K; and
  2. Humanitarian Fee Waivers: any fees associated with the filing of any benefit request by a VAWA self-petitioner or an alien who has or is requesting a T visa or U visa; is a battered spouse of A, G, E–3, or H nonimmigrant, or a battered spouse or child of a lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen; or has Temporary Protected Status. This would include filings not otherwise eligible for a fee waiver or eligible only for a conditional fee waiver such as Forms I-212, I-485, I-539, and I-601.
  3. Conditional Fee Waivers: If not listed above, you may request a fee waiver subject to the following conditions:  (a) I-131 – only if applying for humanitarian parole (i.e., only for persons located overseas who are applying for an Advance Parole Document, Application Type “e” or “f” in Part 2); (b) I-290B – only if the underlying application was fee exempt, the fee was waived, or it was eligible for a fee waiver; and (c) in addition, an applicant who does not have to show he or she will not become a public charge for admission or adjustment of status purposes according to section 212(a)(4) of the INA may request a waiver of the following fees: I-192, I-193, I-485 (This would include but not be limited to an I-485 from a “Registry” applicant, an asylee, Special Immigrant Juvenile, an application under the Cuban Adjustment Act, the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act, and the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act, or similar provision, or; a Lautenberg Parolee), and I-601.
  4. Biometrics: biometric services in connection with any application or petition, regardless of whether it is listed above.

What is the Fee Waiver Application Process?

USCIS has developed  Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, in an effort to facilitate the fee waiver request process. While USCIS will continue to consider applicant-generated fee waiver requests (i.e., those not submitted on Form I-912) that comply with 8 CFR 103.7(c), it is USCIS’s preference that Form I-912 be used to submit fee waiver requests.   Also, Form I-912 and its instructions provide helpful guidance in structuring and documenting a fee waiver request.

Who Can Get a Fee Waiver?

The review of a fee waiver request will focus on the following three steps:

Step 1. Are you receiving a means-tested benefit?  This step instructs an applicant about various acceptable means-tested benefits and the kinds of acceptable evidence used to document the receipt of a means-tested benefits. This step also outlines which family members will be considered as eligible for a fee waiver based upon the primary applicant’s receipt of a means-tested benefit. If you are receiving a means-tested benefit and you have provided sufficient evidence with your fee waiver request, your fee waiver will normally be approved and no further information is required.

Step 2. Is your household income at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines at the time of filing? This step instructs an applicant about what is acceptable evidence in determining household income. It also specifies what family members should be included when determining household size. If you have provided sufficient evidence that your household income is at or below the 150 % threshold, your fee waiver will normally be approved.

Step 3. Do you have some financial hardship situation that you would want USCIS to consider when determining eligibility for a fee waiver? This step allows an applicant to list any special circumstances that USCIS should consider in addition to income such as extraordinary expenses and liabilities.

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New USCIS Filing Fees Are Now In Effect

On November 23, 2010, the pre-announced increase in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) filing fees went into effect.  All applications and petitions filed must now include the new and correct filing fee, or the filings will be rejected.

We have written in the past about the need of this fee increase and our office handled a surge of applications before the fee increase date to accommodate filings under the old fee structure which, for some filings, was significantly lower.

Schedule of USCIS Filing Fees

As part of the new fee structure, USCIS has prepared a helpful (and neatly organized) schedule of the current USCIS filing fees – Form G-1055 (in PDF format).

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Reminder: USCIS Increases Filing Fees on Nov. 23

We wrote extensively in the past for the planned and the announced USCIS fee increase which is set to take effect on November 23rd for all applications filed or postmarked on or beyond this date.   For some filings, the fee increase is very minor (and for some there is even a fee decrease!).  However, due to the substantial fee increase in some case categories, we wanted to provide a reminder of the new fees and provide an opportunity to our clients and readers to prepare and file their cases before the new fees go into effect.

Increases (and a few decreases) in USCIS Filing Fees

A full schedule of the new fees is set forth in page 4 the final rule PDF document or in this table.  Among the most notable increases are:

  • Form I-90 (replacement of green card) filing fee increases from $290 to $365;
  • Form I-129 (used for H, L, P, O visas) filing fee increases from $320 to $325;
  • Form I-129F (used for fiancee visas) filing fee decreases from $455 to $340;
  • Form I-130 (family-based immigrant visas) filing fee increases from $355 to $420;
  • Form I-131 (reentry permits and advance parole documents) filing fee increases from $305 to $360;
  • Form I-140 (employment-based immigrant visas) filing fee increases from $475 to $580;
  • Form I-290B (motion to reopen/appeal) filing fee increases from $585 to $630;
  • Form I-485 (adjustment of status) filing fee increases from $930 to $985 (for children under 14 when filing with parent the fee increases from $600 to $635);
  • Form I-539 (change or extension of status) filing fee decreases from $300 to $290;
  • Form I-751 (removal of condition) filing fee increases from $465 to $505;
  • Form I-765 (work permit) filing fee increases from $340 to $380;
  • Form I-824 (action on approved petition, follow-to-join) increases from $340 to $405;
  • Form I-907 (premium processing) increases from $1,000 to $1,225;
  • Biometrics processing fee increases from $80 to $85.

Effective Date

All of these fee changes become effective on November 23, 2010.  All applications or petitions mailed, postmarked, or otherwise filed on or after November 23, 2010 must include the new fee.

Our Attorney Fees Remain Unchanged

Unlike USCIS, our fees remain unchanged and we are happy to help you prepare and file your case.  Please contact us if our office can be of any assistance.

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Increase in USCIS Filing Fees Goes Into Effect on November 23, 2010

We wrote earlier in the summer about USCIS’ plans and proposed rule to increase certain filing fees.   The final rule was published a few days ago in the Federal Register and the new increased filing fees are set to go into effect on November 23, 2010.

Increases (and a few decreases) in USCIS Filing Fees

A full schedule of the new fees is set forth in page 4 the final rule PDF document or in this table.  Among the most notable increases are:

  • Form I-90 (replacement of green card) filing fee increases from $290 to $365;
  • Form I-129 (used for H, L, P, O visas) filing fee increases from $320 to $325;
  • Form I-129F (used for fiancee visas) filing fee decreases from $455 to $340;
  • Form I-130 (family-based immigrant visas) filing fee increases from $355 to $420;
  • Form I-131 (reentry permits and advance parole documents) filing fee increases from $305 to $360;
  • Form I-140 (employment-based immigrant visas) filing fee increases from $475 to $580;
  • Form I-290B (motion to reopen/appeal) filing fee increases from $585 to $630;
  • Form I-485 (adjustment of status) filing fee increases from $930 to $985 (for children under 14 when filing with parent the fee increases from $600 to $635);
  • Form I-539 (change or extension of status) filing fee decreases from $300 to $290;
  • Form I-751 (removal of condition) filing fee increases from $465 to $505;
  • Form I-765 (work permit) filing fee increases from $340 to $380;
  • Form I-824 (action on approved petition, follow-to-join) increases from $340 to $405;
  • Form I-907 (premium processing) increases from $1,000 to $1,225;
  • Biometrics processing fee increases from $80 to $85.

Effective Date

All of these fee changes become effective on November 23, 2010.  All applications or petitions mailed, postmarked, or otherwise filed on or after November 23, 2010 must include the new fee.

Conclusion

We will not comment on the fairness and the justifications of the new fees.  We hope that the new fees will result in increased efficiency and accuracy in USCIS adjudications.

We urge our clients and readers, if possible, to prepare and file any upcoming petitions and applications for benefits before the new fees become effective in approximately two months on November 23rd.   As with previous fee increases, we expect increased workload of filings so please contact us as soon as possible so that we can ensure we can prepare and file your case on time before the filing fee increase becomes effective on November 23rd.  Please contact us now so that we can analyze and prepare your case for filing.

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New Appointment Service for All U.S. Visa Applicants in Canada

We have clients and our office handles a number of U.S. visa applications submitted in Canada.  Accordingly, we wish to report on a new appointment service for all U.S. visa applicants in Canada, which becomes effective on September 1, 2010.

As of September 1, 2010, all services — including calling for information and scheduling an appointment — will be provided for no additional cost, with no requirement that applicants pay phone charges or PIN numbers to access such services. Starting September 1, 2010, applicants will visit CSC Visa Information Services to either obtain information online or via telephone on how to start their application for a U.S. visa at a consular section in Canada.

For those U.S. visa applicants who have already scheduled an appointment or paid their MRV fee, the U.S. Embassy in Canada has some specific instructions.

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FY2011 H-1B Numbers Update – 33,900 Regular and 12,600 Masters Cap Visas Used (August 20, 2010)

USCIS released the weekly FY2011 information on the numbers of cap-subject H-1Bs filed since April 1.   As of August 20, 2010, USCIS has received approximately 33,900 H-1B petitions counting toward the 65,000 cap (a substantial increase of 4,200 over the past week).  Similarly, as of August 20, there were 12,600 H-1B visas filed subject to the U.S. Masters cap which has 20,000 limit (an increase of only 300 over the past week).

H-1B Quota Trends – Is the Substantial Regular Cap Filings Increase a One-Time Event?

The numbers, as reported over the past week, show a reversal of the recent trends of minor weekly increases.  During the past week there was a substantial increase in the number of regular cap H-1B filings — over 4,000 in a week which is drastically bigger than any the filings over the previous weeks.

It is difficult to estimate the reason for this increase but it is most likely due to the fee increase imposed on certain H-1B filings.  We suspect that a number of companies wanted to file before they were subjected to the new significant H-1B filing fee.  We will monitor next 1-2 weeks’ H-1B numbers to understand whether this increase was indeed a one-time opportunity to file before the fees were raised or there is a longer-term trend of increased regular-cap H-1B filings.

We wish to reiterate our caution to potential H-1B employers and employees that as the U.S. economy is seen to recover and grow, it is possible that the pace of H-1B filings will increase.

We invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics.  In the meantime, if you are considering filing a cap-subject H-1B petition as part of the FY2011 quota, please contact us as soon as possible — it is never too early to file a cap-subject H-1B petition.

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New ESTA Fee Goes Into Effect September 8, 2010 for Visa Waiver Program Travelers

We wish to remind our readers and clients that a new fee goes into effect starting on September 8, 2010 for Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) registration.  ESTA is a required pre-travel registration for Visa Waiver Program (VWP) travelers to the U.S.

About the Fee

The fee will be in the amount of $14.00 and will be required to be paid via credit card (MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover) at the time of completion of the ESTA pre-travel registration.  An ESTA registration is valid for up to two years so the fee will not need to be paid for subsequent VWP travels within this two-year period before a new ESTA registration (and fee) will be required.

The fee was mandated by the Travel Promotion Act of 2009 which mandates that the ESTA funds will be partnered with private funds for the purpose of U.S. travel promotion.

Fee Becomes Effective September 8, 2010

All ESTA registrations submitted on or after September 8, 2010 will require the payment of the new fee.   VWP travelers who plan to visit the U.S. in the near future may want to submit their ESTA registration in advance of this date.

The mandatory nature of the fee and the fact that it can only be paid via certain credit cards through the ESTA website has caused some concerns.  Although many Visa Waiver Countries travelers have access to credit cards at their disposal, the credit card payment requirement may deter or inconvenience some VWP travelers during their ESTA registration process.   As of now, there are no other alternative methods for paying the fee.

Visa Waiver Countries

As a reminder, the Visa Waiver Countries are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

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H-1B and L-1 Fee Increase for Certain Filings Becomes Effective

Many of our readers and clients are aware of the recent developments with respect to the “border security bill” passed by Congress and recently signed by President Obama into law (Public Law 111-230).

What Are the New H-1B and L-1 Filing Fees?

Effective immediately, Public Law 111-230 requires the submission of an additional fee of $2,000 for certain H-1B petitions and $2,250 for certain L-1A and L-1B petitions postmarked on or after Aug. 14, 2010, and will remain in effect through Sept. 30, 2014.

Note that not all H-1B or L-1 cases are subject to these new fees.  These additional fees apply to petitioners who employ 50 or more employees in the United States with more than 50 percent of its employees in the United States in H-1B or L (including L-1A, L-1B and L-2) nonimmigrant status.  Petitioners meeting these criteria must submit the fee with an H-1B or L-1 petition filed:

  • Initially to grant an alien nonimmigrant status described in subparagraph (H)(i)(b) or (L) of section 101(a)(15) (H-1B or L-1 cases), or
  • To obtain authorization for an alien having such status to change employers.

It should also be noted that this additional fee, where applicable, is in addition to any applicable filing, fraud prevention, ACWIA or premium processing fees.

Revisions of Form I-129 is Underway

Because Public Law 111-230 is effective immediately but USCIS has not released a revised Form I-129 to reflect the new requirements and fees, USCIS advises all H or L filings to clearly describe whether the new fee applies:

USCIS recommends that all H-1B, L-1A and L-1B petitioners, as part of the filing packet, include the new fee or a statement of other evidence outlining why this new fee does not apply. USCIS requests that petitioners include a notation of whether the fee is required in bold capital letters at the top of the cover letter. Where USCIS does not receive such explanation and/or documentation with the initial filing, it may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) to determine whether the petition is covered by the public law. An RFE may be required even if such evidence is submitted, if questions remain.

Source: USCIS Update: USCIS Implements H-1B and L-1 Fee Increase According to Public Law 111-230 (August 19, 2010)

Conclusion

The H-1B and L visa fee increase is likely to impact a number of companies relying heavily on foreign workers.  The law has sparked some controversy and is subject to a number of diplomatic, political and even international trade disputes.   However, as it stands now, all H-1B and L filings should undergo an additional level of analysis whether Public Law 111-230 applies.

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