Immigration fees set to increase

Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke is urging individuals who want to file immigration applications and petitions to submit them before Dec. 23, 2016, when several fees will increase.

“Citizenship confers enormous benefits, such as the right to vote, that allow people an opportunity to enjoy the full blessings of American life,” said Clarke who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn.

“It relieves and protects those lacking citizenship status, resident foreign nationals, from the fear that any interaction with the law enforcement officials or the court system could result in deportation proceedings and a forced separation from loved ones.

“Citizenship makes it possible to fully enjoy the fruits of one’s labor,” Clarke added. “As the daughter of parents who came to the United States from the nation of Jamaica and the representative of a community that includes immigrants from around the world, I am hopeful that individuals who are eligible to apply for citizenship will complete the required paperwork and submit their forms before fees increase on Dec. 23.

“The staff at my District Office in Brooklyn stand ready to assist interested individuals by inquiring about the status of pending applications as well as provide references to local organizations that assist in completing the application process and paperwork. Now is the Time,” Clarke continued.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on Oct. 24 a final rule, published in the Federal Register adjusting the fees required for most immigration applications and petitions. The new fees will be effective Dec. 23.

USCIS said it is almost entirely funded by the fees paid by applicants and petitioners for immigration benefits.

USCIS said the law requires it to conduct fee reviews every two years to determine the funding levels necessary to administer the nation’s immigration laws, process benefit requests and provide the infrastructure needed to support those activities.

Fees will increase for the first time in six years, by a weighted average of 21 percent for most applications and petitions, USCIS said.

This increase is necessary to recover the full cost of services provided by USCIS.

USCIS said these include the costs associated with fraud detection and national security, customer service and case processing, and providing services without charge to refugee and asylum applicants and to other customers eligible for fee waivers or exemptions.

The final rule contains a table summarizing current and new fees. The new fees will also be listed on the USCIS page on its website. USCIS said Form G-1055 will not reflect the new fees until the effective date.

Applications and petitions postmarked or filed on or after Dec. 23 must include the new fees, or USCIS will not be able to accept them.

“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,” said USCIS Director León Rodríguez. “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,” Rodríguez added. “We will also offer a reduced filing fee for certain naturalization applicants with limited means.”

Highlights of the fees are: A modest fee increase of $45, or 8 percent, from $595 to $640 for Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.

USCIS will offer a reduced filing fee of $320 for naturalization applicants with family incomes greater than 150 percent and not more than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

For 2016, USCIS said this means, for example, that a household of four with an income between $36,000 and $48,600 per year could pay the reduced fee. Those eligible may apply for this option using the new Form I-942, Request for Reduced Fee.

USCIS said the fee for Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship, and N-600K, Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322, will increase from $550 or 600 to $1,170.

A new fee of $3,035 is required for Form I-924A, Annual Certification of Regional Center, USCIS said.

In preparing the final rule, USCIS said it considered all 436 comments received during the 60-day public comment period for the proposed rule published May 4.

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