By: Brian C. Malone, Esq.

March 15, 2024

April 1, 2024, marks a significant shift in the USCIS fee schedule, bringing changes that will impact a wide range of applicants. Amid narratives focusing largely on fee increases, it’s important to highlight an overlooked discussion: not all fees are rising, and some opportunities for reduced costs and EXPANDED FEE WAIVER ELIGIBILITY will be available on April 1st. While there will be some benefits that come when the new fee schedule goes into effect, there are many complications, as well. Let’s talk about it:

1. Selective Fee Reductions: While the broader narrative centers on increased costs, certain application fees will decrease. First, for those who are considering filing to replace their green card, doing so online will now cost less — down to $415 from $455. Naturalization applicants who file online will also see a slight decrease in their N-400 filing fees from $725 to $710 (woohoo!). Further, the reduced fee for the N-400 (with biometrics) will go down from $405 to $380, and a much wider range of income levels will qualify N-400 applicants for the reduced fee. There are other fee reductions, as well, but there is a lot more that I’m going to cover here so I’ll skip over the rest, for now.

2. Adjustment of Status Applicants will have to pay Filing Fees for their applications for (i) Work Authorization AND (ii) a Travel Document. Previously, the regular filing fee for Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, did not apply to those with a pending Form I-485; however, that is no more. Beginning on April 1st, these applicants will pay a $260 filing fee for Form I-765. Similarly situated, Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, will require its own additional filing fee when filed with a one-step adjustment of status application or with a pending I-485; however, until April 1, 2024, the current fee schedule applies that does not require a filing fee for a Travel Document in adjustment of status cases. Without a doubt, if you are planning to file for an adjustment of status anytime soon, if you want to save A LOT of money on filing fees (I-130 and I-485 fees are also being raised), contact an immigration lawyer as quickly as possible to talk about whether you can get your application in.

**Please note, other I-765 fees are different than those stated above**

2. Online Filing Discounts: Embracing digital transformation, sort of, USCIS will offer a small discount for online filings of eligible forms; HOWEVER, with an online filing system that is still terrible and time-consuming, USCIS will obviously need to improve the feasibility of use for its online filing before the discount is worth the headache of navigating the current system. With that said, if they can improve the online filing system, this initiative has the *potential* to streamline the application process. For now, in my opinion, the slight cost advantage for applicants who will prepare to file electronically is NOT worth the unnecessarily time-consuming task of submitting online; however, hopefully USCIS will put some of that money, from the majority of filing fees that are being raised, into improving the online system.

3. Certain updated forms take effect on April 1st with NO GRACE PERIOD: with the new fee rule that goes into effect, there are new editions of some forms that MUST be used if postmarked on or after April 1st. These forms are: (i) I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker; (ii) I-129 CW, Petition for a CNMI-Only Nonimmigrant Transitional Worker; (iii) I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers; (iv) I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative; and (v) I-600A, Application for Advanced Processing of an Orphan Petition, and the form’s supplements.

4. Impact on Business Immigration: The updated fee schedule directly affects business immigration strategies, particularly with nuanced changes in H-1B registrations and EB-5 program adjustments. These updates necessitate a strategic approach to talent acquisition, retention, and investment-based immigration pathways.

5. Consult with an Immigration Attorney about filing recommendations: With the upcoming changes, the timing of submissions becomes strategic. Applicants facing increases might consider filing before the implementation date, whereas those eligible for reduced fees or newly introduced waivers might benefit from waiting.

The upcoming USCIS fee schedule update is more than a blanket increase; it’s a multifaceted change that offers both challenges and opportunities. For businesses and individuals navigating these changes, understanding the broader implications and strategic considerations is key to informed decision-making.

As the landscape of U.S. immigration continues to evolve, staying informed and adapting strategies accordingly is so important. Whether planning for business immigration needs or individual applications, the changes to the USCIS fee schedule are an essential consideration for all navigating this space. I have been reading a lot of fear-mongering out there about the fees, and to be fair there are some significant increases with certain types of applications, especially adjustments of status. But I have been feeling that much of the posts are conveniently omitting some of the key information that is relevant to a whole lot of people out there who need the clarification that these changes are not going to negatively affect every application. So, I felt an ethical duty to write from a perspective that aims more to provide a complete view of what is happening, than to drum up panicking client leads before April 1st. This post hopes to offer another angle of insight into the upcoming changes and adjustments.

#USCISFeeSchedule #ImmigrationLaw #BusinessImmigration #StrategicFiling #DigitalTransformation

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