Immigration Fee Change and Public Charge

Visa Processing Fee Changes

In August, USCIS published a rule significantly increasing the fees for various visa applications.  The proposal also imposed charges for some applications (like asylum) that had never before had a fee associated with them and limited the ability to waive the fee for applicants who could not afford to pay an application fee.  The greatest fee increases were proposed for non-immigrant employment-based visas, adjustment of status to receive a green card, applications for cancellation of removal, and applications for waivers of traditional processing such as with advance permission or without certain usual documentation, but the fee increases did affect every visa category.  The new fees were set to go into effect on October 2, 2020.

At the end of September, a court stopped the fee increases from going into effect on the proposed October 2, 2020 date.  These fee increases, therefore, are now on hold pending the final court ruling about the fee increases.

Another set of fee increases were proposed to take effect in the middle of October.  This fee increase only affected requests that non-immigrant, employment-based applications be processed more quickly (premium processing).  This fee increase moved the premium processing fee from $1,440 to $1,500 for H-2B and R-1 applicants and from $1,440 to $2,500 to all other applicants using Form I-129.

The Public Charge Rule

Earlier this year, USCIS began requiring applicants for permanent residency to demonstrate that they had the funds available to support themselves and would not become a “public charge” at any time in this country.  This self-sufficiency can be demonstrated by a new form, I-944.  The form to demonstrate financial stability is long and onerous, requiring evidence of the applicant’s tax returns, bank accounts, and all other positive factors to demonstrate that the immigrant will not be using public resources while in the United States.

The courts have reviewed this change a number of times and the need to submit the new form has changed almost daily.  At the end of October, the court held that the form was not necessary, however, as of November 4, an appellate court stated that USCIS could use the form.

Both the fees required for filing forms for immigration benefits and the forms themselves change rapidly in this administration, often times with little notice.  Please check in if you are thinking about these types of applications so that we can discuss the current state of things with you.