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Yikes! New CIS filing fees

(Paul Choi is an immigration attorney practicing in Encino, California. As a public service, he will answer all questions regarding immigration and naturalization for free either by mail, email at pchoi@pchoilaw.com, on the phone, or in person or you may contact his administrator, Philip Abramowitz at 818 714-2226, or pabramowitz@pchoilaw.com. The following is one such question and the answer by Mr. Choi.)

Question: I am married to a U.S. citizen. I entered the U.S. as a tourist but my visa already expired. Can I apply for permanent residence in the U.S. or do I have to go home? What are the filing fees I have to pay? I heard that the fees will be going up. Is this true?

Answer: The good news is that if you are married to a citizen of the U.S. and you entered the U.S. as a tourist, you are eligible to file for adjustment of status to permanent resident and you do not have to leave the country to apply. Even if you worked illegally or overstayed your visa, you are still eligible.  The Good News: Applicants who file an Adjustment of Status application do not have to pay the additional fees for the work permit and Advance parole as these costs have been included in the adjustment of status application fee.

The bad news: Even though you can apply, you will now be paying much higher filing fees to the USCIS. In 2007, the USCIS raised filing fees almost 50% claiming the fees were necessary to reduce processing times. However, just three years later, on November 23, 2010, the USCIS will raise fees again. The new fee schedule covers virtually every application and petition that is filed with the USCIS, including petitions, applications, motions and appeals. 
Generally fees have increased about 10% but the percentage of fee increase varies according to the particular application or petition.

For a few, seldom used forms, the fees have remained the same or even were reduced. However, the most significant fee increase affects those filing for relatives to immigrate or adjust status as filing fees for the I-130 relative immigrant visa petition will rise from the present already expensive $355 to an even higher, $420 and the fees for an application to adjust status, form I-485 will rise to a whopping $985 plus the $85 biometrics fee. In short filing for adjustment of status based upon a spouse’s petition will set you back about $1500.

On the bright side, applications for naturalization still cost $675 including the biometrics fee. Our law firm has offered to fully prepare applications for naturalization for just $150 plus the filing fee of the USCIS and we have filed dozens of these applications at that reduced rate.

The USCIS should be commended for its efforts to expedite its processing times. However, it should also consider the financial burden these new fees will have on intending immigrants and intending U.S. citizens. With the new fees, a family of four seeking permanent residence can expect to pay more than $4000 in filing fees.

The USCIS claims that the collection of new fees are necessary to cover a shortfall in revenue due to a reduction in the amount of petitions and applications recently filed. The new fee structure is effective as of November 23, 2010.

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Atty Paul Choi will answer all questions regarding immigration, naturalization and deportation defense for FREE. Contact him at pchoi@pchoilaw.com or at 818 714-2226. He is located at 16000 Ventura Blvd, Ste. 1201, Encino, California 91436.

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