U.S. immigration processing fees are experiencing a significant increase, especially affecting foreign professional workers seeking to obtain a visa.
As of April 1, 2024, new fees will go into effect, reflecting a considerable increase in the cost of various immigration procedures. This measure has generated concern and criticism from the immigrant community and experts on the subject.
Increase in Immigration Fees
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that the new fees will take effect on April 1, 2024. These fees reflect an adjustment for the first time since 2016 and seek to cover the agency’s operational costs, as well as streamline the processing of applications.
Among the immigration procedures that will experience a significant increase is Form I-129, used for non-immigrant worker petitions. Currently, this form costs $320, but starting in April it will cost $780, which represents a 70% increase.
Another affected form is Form I-90, used to apply for a replacement permanent resident card (green card). While it currently costs $455, starting in April it will cost $415, which is 9% less.
Petition for U.S. citizenship through Form N-400 will also be affected by the fee increase. From the current $640, the cost will increase to $710, which represents an 11% increase.
These are just a few examples of the immigration procedures that will experience a fee increase beginning in April. USCIS has indicated that these new fees will help cover the agency’s operational costs and expedite the processing of applications.
USCIS has justified the increase in immigration fees as a result of a comprehensive review of the agency’s operational costs. According to the agency, current fees are not sufficient to cover total operating costs, including the expansion of humanitarian programs, salary increases, and additional staffing requirements.
The agency has stressed that approximately 96% of its funding comes from filing fees, not congressional appropriations. Therefore, the fee increase will allow it to more fully recover operating costs, avoid backlogs, and ensure timely decisions.
It should be noted that this fee increase was initially announced in August 2020, but was halted by a federal court in Northern California. However, after a year of revisions and considering public comments, USCIS has confirmed that the new fees will go into effect on April 1, 2024.
Impact on the Immigrant Community
Increase in immigration fees has generated concern and criticism from the immigrant community and experts on the subject. Juan José Gutiérrez, CEO of the organization Derechos Plenos para los Inmigrantes in Los Angeles, California, has expressed his dissatisfaction, noting that although the increases are not as drastic as expected, they represent an increase in times of need for the immigrant community.
Gutierrez has also highlighted the long waits and delays in the processing of immigration paperwork, which generates greater frustration among applicants. On the other hand, attorney Jaime Barron, of Dallas, Texas, has expressed concern that the fee increase will not necessarily speed up the process and that wait times will not be reduced in the short term.
In the face of these criticisms, USCIS has emphasized that the new fees will reduce the agency’s required annual cost recovery amount and expand fee waivers for certain groups, such as Special Immigrant Juveniles and victims of human trafficking, crime and domestic violence.
The increase in U.S. immigration fees, especially in the foreign professional worker visa, presents a challenge to the immigrant community. While USCIS has justified this increase as necessary to cover operational costs and expedite the processing of applications, it has generated concern and criticism from those affected.
It is important to be informed about these changes in immigration fees and to plan appropriately for the updated costs. In addition, it is essential to seek advice from experts in immigration law to understand the requirements and options available.