US Visa fee increases for immigrant and nonimmigrant petitions from 23 December 2016

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that from December 23, 2016, fees for most types of US immigration application will increase. Those filing for naturalization, permanent residency and non-immigrant visas can expect to pay higher fees.

With the Trump Presidency and concerns about further immigration restrictions more people are applying for US citizenship. According to sources, the majority of permanent residents do not bother filing for citizenship because they see no value in becoming a citizen and being able to vote in the US and may not wish to petition as US citizens for family members to join them in the US.

More expensive to file I129 nonimmigrant work visas such as the L1 visa, H1B visa, H2B visa, etc

While the additional overall cost may not be huge employers filing visas such as the L1A visa for international executives and managers and L1B for specialized knowledge workers, H1B visas for graduate level specialty workers and other I129 petition applications will see an increase in costs.   Filing an I129 visa petition now costs $460 instead of $325.   As many employers will also be paying $1225 for premium processing fees with their I129 petition the overall cost increase in filing a non-immigrant work visa application is not that great.  However, it is still yet another burden on employers.   Other types of visa applications made from within the US that are affected are E2 Treaty Investor visa applications and E1 Treaty Trader Visa applications.

More expensive to file I14O employment based immigrant visa petitions under EB1, EB2 and EB3.

Employers wishing to apply for employment based I140 immigrant visa petitions under various visa categories such as EB1C for multinational executives or managers or EB2 for advanced degree holders, or say EB3 for skilled workers with a bachelors degree will find it more expensive.  The I140 petition fee is now $700 instead of $580.

US election of Trump causes worry amongst immigrants

However, some have said that ‘there’s a false sense of security in thinking that permanent residency makes you immune to deportation.’ In the aftermath of the US election, which took place on Tuesday, November 8, uncertainty surrounds the issue of US immigration.

It is usually extremely difficult to have your US citizenship taken away from you.  More and more immigrants are now applying for US citizenship.

First US Visa fee increase in six years

The new fee increases are the first that USCIS has imposed in six years. However, because the government agency is almost entirely funded by fees for paid by citizenship applicants and petitioners for US immigration benefits, theoretically, USCIS could carry out fee reviews every two year.

Some of the fee increases disclosed by the US show:

  • Increase in nonimmigrant I129 work visa petition fees from $325 to $460;
  • Increase in employment based I140 Immigrant visa petitions from $580 to $700;
  • An increase from $595 up to $640 for a naturalization application;
  • An increase from $600 to $1,170 for a Certificate of Citizenship application;
  • A jump from $985 up to $1,140 to register permanent residence or adjust status;
  • A rise of $115 for US citizens to petition a relative from $420 up to $535.

Currently, some applicants are fully exempt from the fees, including those earning an income below the 150% threshold featured in the Federal Poverty Guidelines. However, USCIS plans to offer discounted rates for those earning below the 200% threshold, which applies to families of four with an income ranging between $36,450 and $48,600 a year.

It’s understood that the discounted fee will be $320, down from the current fee of $725.

Sources say that there is an entire community of people eligible for naturalization that don’t apply simply because of the fees. If an application is made with a fee waiver request is rejected, entire applications are declined too. Therefore, there is a perception among applicants that the process is not worth the hassle.

Leon Rodriguez, the director of USCIS, said: “This is our first fee increase since November 2010, and we sincerely appreciate the valuable public input we received as we prepared this final rule. We are mindful of the effect fee increases have on many of the customers we serve. That’s why we decided against raising fees as recommended after the fiscal year 2012 and 2014 fee reviews.”

“However, as an agency dependent upon users’ fees to operate, these changes are now necessary to ensure we can continue to serve our customers effectively.  We will also offer a reduced filing fee for certain naturalization applicants with limited means,” Rodriguez added.

Meanwhile, other key fee increases include a rise in the application for employment authorization from $380 to $410 and the application to extend/change nonimmigrant status from $290 to $380.