THE new fees for most immigration benefits available through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) will become effective on July 30, the agency announced on Tuesday.
"We proposed our new fee structure with the expectation of ongoing discussions with the public on this important issue," said USCIS Director Emilio Gonzalez. "The volume and value of the comments we received has provided an opportunity to fine-tune our final fee structure that we believe is both fair to our customers and vital to our nation as we continue to build a secure and efficient national immigration service."
As required by law, USCIS posted the proposed fee hikes in the Federal Register earlier this year, and the agency received more than 3,900 comments from the public about the changes. As a result, some revisions were made, including a 25% reduction in the fee for filing Form I-485 (adjustment of status) for those aged 14 and under.
The final rule, according to an agency press release, also allows USCIS to waive the filing fee for U.S. citizens seeking immigrant status for their alien spouses (K-3 visas).
USCIS expects that the revenue from the new fee structure will lead to a 20% reduction in average application processing times by the end of fiscal year 2009, and will cut processing times by the end of fiscal year 2008 for renewing/replacing a green card; petitioning for an alien worker, and naturalization.
The fees for naturalization (Form N-400) will increase from $330 to $675, replacing/renewing a green card (Form I-90), from $260 to $370, applying for a re-entry permit (Form I-131) from $170 to $305.
There are a range of new increases for many other services. Visit www.uscis.gov for a full schedule.
Until July 30, the current fee structure remains in place, so those holding off on, say, naturalization should take advantage of the discount.
The new fees, USCIS says, will help to improve service across the board at the agency. "The new fee schedule is designed to provide for an adequate and sustainable level of investment in staff, infrastructure, and processes to improve USCIS' administration of the nation's immigration laws," the agency release said.
"USCIS plans to review fees every two years to ensure that it is recovering the full cost of processing immigration benefit petitions/applications. USCIS is committed to update its fees through a similar analysis at least once every two years. USCIS continues to seek ways to improve productivity while decreasing costs.
"Additionally, for the first time, USCIS has incorporated a productivity measure into the fee model to ensure that productivity gains resulting from automated business processes and better technology will be factored into future fee reviews."
Speaking of processing times, which vary according to where paperwork is filed, there's not much difference in the state of New York these days. As of May 21, 2007, each of the five New York offices - New York City, Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany and Rochester - were processing N-400 naturalization applications filed on or before October 12, 2006.
There was also little difference in the processing of I-485 adjustment of status paperwork. New York City is handling those cases filed on or before August 13, 2006, while the other offices are three months ahead, at November 13.