USCIS increases all fees: the effect on EB2 NIW

We knew it since January 2023: USCIS had plans to increase processing fees all across the board. The final rule is now public and in this article we will discuss the main changes and how the fee increase affects EB2 NIW green card in particular. USCIS has tamed some of the initially proposed increases, but it is fair to say that getting a green card will be more expensive from now on.

The official information on the USCIS fee increase

Before getting into my own analysis or summary of the new fee schedule, it is important to know where you can get all the official infromation. There are two important websites to consult. The first one is the actual full text of the Fee Schedule that you can find in the Federal Register (keep in mind it is a 207 page document!). The second one is a Frequently Asked Questions site that USCIS has put together to help you find the most relevant information on this topic.

When do these new fees go into effect?

April 1st, 2024 is the date when USCIS increased fees go into effect as this rule takes action. Some forms will also change on this date, so the new form version must be used. However, for most forms USCIS will establish a grace period from April 1 to June 3, 2024 in which applicants may use the new or the old version. However, they will need to submit the updated fee. An exception to this is form I-140, which will not have a grace period.

Reasons for the increased fees

USCIS has highlighted once again how this federal agency is fee-funded. This means that the vast majority of its resources come directly from fees paid by you, the petitioner. Specifically, 96% of their funding comes from applicants fees, and only 4% from Congressional appropriations. 

The agency has said multiple times that the fees need to be increased to allow smooth operations and reduce processing times. The current fee structure has been in effect since 2016 with no inflation adjustments.

With this update, USCIS will collect $4.42 billion dollars per year, up from $3.27 billion per year collected with the existing fee structure.

The changes for EB-2 NIW petitioners

Most fees associated with National Interest Waiver will increase (we will summarize them in a table below). 

A positive change is the simplification of biometric fees. Now, those processes that require biometrics (for example, an adjustment of status), will include the cost of this step in the overall fee. No biometric fee will be paid separately.

The biggest negative effect for applicants in the United States is that Adjustment of Status fee will no longer cover interim benefits such as the Travel Document, or Advanced Parole (I-131) or the temporary work permit or EAD card (I-765). Now, they will have to be paid separately, which will require petitioners to really think if they need those temporary benefits or not.

A summary of the increased fees for EB2 NIW

The table below summarizes the main changes that National Interest Waiver self petitioners will suffer from:

USCIS fee increase summary table
USCIS fee increase summary table

Form I-140 fee will increase only slightly, from the current $700 to $715. This form is only filed by the principal applicant, so it does not have a huge effect on the overall cost for a family.

The largest impact comes from the Adjustment of Status process (I-485), for those in the United States. The current cost for I-485 was $1,225 (including the $85 of biometric fees). This cost covered the interim benefits associated to I-765 and I-161 (EAD card and travel document). Now, the cost of adjustment of status increases 18% to $1,440 and it does not include any of these interim benefits. 

Applicants who want a travel document will pay an additional $630, and those who need an EAD card to work while their adjustment of status is pending will incur in a $260 fee. So, a petitioner who needs both work permit and travel document will pay $2,330 for the adjustment of status. This is 90% more than the current cost for the same benefits, or almost double! It is also important to remember that not only the principal applicant will pay these fees: each member of the immediate family will pay their own fees as well.

It is clear that applicant will need to carefully consider if they will need the advanced parole for traveling or a work permit during the AOS process. If they don’t, they may not request these interim benefits and save some money.

Finally, the cost of adjustment of status for children (younger than 14 years old filing as derivative of a parent) will go up from $750 to $950. This is a 27% increase, although is less pronounced that what had been originally announced last year. USCIS initially proposed to remove the children discount, but has corrected this decision after receiving a lot of public comments on the matter.

Premium Processing fee increase announced separately

Only a few weeks ago USCIS announced that the fee for expediting a case (Premium Processing) was going to be increased to adjust it for inflation. The fee for Premium Processing for I-140 will go up from $2,500 to $2,805 (12%) on February 26, 2024. You can read more about it in this separate blog post.

Conclusions

  1. As expected, USCIS is increasing all fees
  2. Changes will happen on April 1st 2024
  3. Careful with certain forms, such as I-140, with no grace period
  4. Applicants in the USA to be selective when filing Adjustment of Status: do you really need an EAD card and Travel Document?

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