AUGUST 2016
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Immigration

Filing Fee Increase Proposed for Most Popular Applications and Petitions

Dilip Patel

By DILIP PATEL

In May, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) published a proposed rule to increase the fees on nearly all immigration forms. The increased filing fees will be felt across the spectrum of immigration law, as family, employment, and individual cases will all see an increase in fees. Below are the most widely used forms:

Family:

Current

Proposed

Form I-130, petition for family members

$420.00

$535.00

Employment:

   

Form I-129, petitions for H, L, E, O, P, R (employment-based nonimmigrants)

$325.00

$460.00

Form I-140, petition for permanent employment

$580.00

$700.00

Individual:

   

Form I-90, application to replace permanent resident card (green card)

$450*

$540*

Form I-485, adjustment of status (green card) application

$1,070*

$1,225*

Form I-765, work card application

$380.00

$410.00

Form I-131, travel document application

$360.00

$575.00

Form I-539, change/extend status application

$290.00

$370.00

Form I-751, removal of conditions application

$590*

$680*

Form N-400, naturalization application

$680*

$725*

*Includes biometrics

While these fee increases are only in the proposal stage right now, it is likely that most of these increases will become final and that they will go into effect by the end of the year (premium processing is not projected to change). USCIS operations are financed primarily through filing fees, and the agency is predicting a $560 million shortfall this year.

Employers with a Pending I-129 Extension/Change May Submit a Service Request after Seven Months

Form I-129 is frequently used by employers because it covers several very popular employment-based visa categories, such as H, L, O, P, E, TN, and R. These submissions are handled primarily by USCIS’s California and Vermont service centers. Increasing backlogs and extended processing times have delayed adjudication and can frustrate employers, but the risk can be even greater to a beneficiary who has been working for months if the I-129 is ultimately denied.

For H-1B extensions and amendments sent to the California Service Center, the current processing time is eight months, according to the USCIS website, but other visa categories are being processed between two and five months. The Vermont Service Center (VSC) is taking even longer for H-1B extensions and amendments, and is experiencing processing delays for L visa petitions as well. Even O and P petitions sent to the VSC are taking six months, which is longer than usual. This is particularly problematic because the beneficiary’s work authorization is automatically extended for 240 additional days when an extension or amendment filed. When adjudication exceeds eight months, it leaves the beneficiary unable to work legally.

Unfortunately, employers cannot pick and choose which service center to submit their I-129 petitions, as they are bound by geographic location. But, for those with a pending H-1B extension or amendment request, they no longer have to wait until their petition has exceeded the posted processing times to submit a service request. Now, employers (or their attorneys) are now able to reach out to USCIS after 210 days (seven months) have passed since filing, which flags the delayed H-1B petition between one and three months earlier than current processing times. Hopefully, this new policy will help the USCIS service centers to identify pending cases that are nearing the expected deadline and to prioritize these cases so they can be adjudicated within the posted processing times — and, more importantly, before the extended grant of work authorization expires.

Adjustment of Status and Registry Applicants Should Double Check Combo Card for Travel Authorization Before Travelling Abroad

Combination employment authorization (EAD) and advance parole (AP) cards are normally concurrently filed with adjustment of status applications and for those adjusting based on registry. These concurrently filed cases (Forms I-765 and I-131) are normally approved at the same time. Consequently, the work authorization card that is issued contains an AP travel authorization notation on the bottom, “SERVES AS I-512 Advance Parole,” making it also a travel permit, and thus a “combo card.” Normally, no separate AP document is issued. Recently, however, there have been reports of such cards missing the travel authorization annotation. In response to inquiries, USCIS has advised that it only issues the combo card when it approves a Form I-131 advance parole application at the same time as it approves a Form I-765 employment authorization filed under the “C9 adjustment” or “C16 registry” category. No other category is eligible for a combo card. If the case is in either category, it is possible that the I-131 application will not be adjudicated at the same time as the I-765 application, and thus no combo card will be issued. If that happens, applicants can contact USCIS’s National Customer Service Center, obtain a Service Request Management Tool (SRMT) number and ask the service center to issue a combo card.

Dilip Patel of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, a board-certified expert on immigration law, can be reached at (813) 222-1120 or email dilip.patel@bipc.com

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