USCIS Increases Filing Fees

USCIS has announced that on November 23, 2010, the filing fees (“Immigration Benefit Request Fees”) will increase for many applications and petitions.  The most popular forms that will be increasing are the Form I-129 (from $320 to $325, used in most employment-based nonimmigrant visa petitions such as H-1Bs, L-1s, O-1s and E-1s and E-2s), Form I-130 immigrant visa petition (from $355 to $420), Form I-485 application to adjust status (from $930 to $985), Form I-601 waiver of the grounds of inadmissibility (from $545 to $585), Form I-140 immigrant visa petition for employment-based cases (from $475 to $580), Form I-751 petition to remove conditions of residence (from $465 to $505) and Form I-907 request for premium processing (From $1,000 to $1,225). 

The filing fee for the Form N-400 for naturalization will remain the same at $575.  Some forms fees will actually decrease in price, including Form I-129F for fiances (from $455 to $340) and the Form I-539 to extend or change certain nonimmigrant statuses (from $300 to $290).

In this battered economy, it is quite amazing that USCIS is raising its fees.  Filing fees are already outrageously high, especially for most working families, and reflect the US’s ambivalence or outright hostility to immigrants.  If we truly valued the contributions of immigrants, then we would be reducing or eliminating filing fees and simply cover such expenses through general taxes imposed on the entire population.  Immigrants create companies and jobs, take jobs that US workers are unwilling to do and open our minds to the rest of the world, creating greater tolerance and understanding of the other.  Also, we already have many mechanisms in place to protect the US workforce and ensure that immigrants and their families do not impose an undue burden on our welfare system. 

Should we have a reasonable expectation that such fee increases will also enhance service and speed up processing times?  Unfortunately not, based on past experience with other immigration programs, such as the PERM labor certification program.  PERM was established with the goal of decreasing processing times from years to weeks or months.  That goal quickly flew out the window and became a pipe dream.  Initially, PERM was relatively quick, but then it increased to around 10 months to one year.  Recently, without an audit, it is possible to get a decision within around four months on average.  However, with an audit, it could be over one year.  Let’s continue to dream that this time it will be different.