NOVEMBER 2010
Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida
Immigration

FILING FEES FOR IMMIGRATION BENEFITS INCREASE ON NOV. 23

Dilip Patel

By DILIP PATEL
(www.dplawfirm.com)

Applying for immigration benefits with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is about to get more expensive. Starting Nov. 23, fees for nearly all types of applications and petitions with USCIS will increase by an average of 10 percent across the board. Coupled with a 66 percent increase in 2007, immigration service users, especially families applying for their green cards, will feel the hit.

The most relevant and significant increases include: an I-130 petition for an immigrant relative, which will cost $420 (up $65); an I-140 petition for an immigrant worker, $580 (up $105); and an I-485 application to adjust status, $1,070 with biometrics (up $60). The premium processing fee – available for certain nonimmigrant and immigrant visa petitions and guaranteeing a decision in 15 days – will increase to $1,225, a 25 percent increase from the current cost of $1,000. Replacing a lost green card will cost $365 (up $75). Another hefty increase is for a petition to remove conditions by an EB-5 immigrant-entrepreneur (I-829): $3,750, up from the current cost of $2,850. While the base fee for N-400 applications for naturalization (N-400s) remains unchanged at $595, the fee for biometrics increases by $5 to $85.

USCIS asserts that the increase is necessary to recoup its operating costs of administering the nation’s immigration laws and processing applications for benefits. As a fee-based agency with about 90 percent of its budget coming from fees, USCIS is required by law to review its fee structure every several years. However, unlike the 2007 fee increase, this increase does not come with a promise to reduced government processing times.

Processing times have been and remain an endemic problem throughout the immigration bureaucracy, not just at USCIS. The most outrageous processing time inefficiency lies with the administrative bodies charged with hearing appeals from decisions of USCIS and immigration judges. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) each have wait times that can exceed two years in many circumstances. Obviously, wait times on the order of one to two years are so obtrusive that they need to be fixed for the larger immigration infrastructure to function efficiently.

As a fee-based service entity, USCIS should not be increasing fees without also increasing value to its customers, by way of faster processing times and quality, consistent decision-making. As it is, a family of four applying for their green cards come Nov. 23 will have to pay more than $4,000 to USCIS, as compared to $2,000 just three years ago. If, however, these increases simply suck more money out of the pockets of immigrants and businesses eligible for benefits under the law without achieving any efficiencies in return, then all is for naught and the “pay raise” to USCIS remains indefensible.

NEW ESTA FEE FOR VISA WAIVER TRAVELERS NOW IN EFFECT

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) instituted on Sept. 8 a new $14 fee for all travelers visiting the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. Such travelers must register 72 hours in advance of their travel with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) program. ESTA registration and authorization previously had been free.

Dilip Patel of Dilip Patel Law Firm (Business and Immigration Attorneys) is board certified in immigration and nationality law. He can be reached at (813) 855-0066, e-mail dpatel@dplawfirm.com or visit www.dplawfirm.com

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