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USCIS Filing Fees Are Increasing. Here Are 7 Quick Tips to Help You Afford Them.

August 6, 2020
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Update 10/01/2020

On 9/29/2020, a federal judge in the state of California issued a nationwide injunction blocking the proposed fee increases from taking effect. We don't know if or when the injunction will be lifted or overturned. Until that time, the changes outlined in this article will not take place. Fees are as they were prior to the proposed increases. You can find a full list of USCIS' current fees on their website, and we will update this page as things change with the proposed fee increase.

On 7/31/20, The Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it would be increasing many of its Filing Fees. The purpose of these increases is to fix USCIS's budget shortfall.

These proposed fee increases and other policy changes will happen on 10/20/20. The filing fees for naturalization services (Citizenship) will increase from $640 to $1,160 - more than 81%. The final fees for most employment-based applications will see an average increase of 20%.

If you're wondering how you're going to afford the higher fees, we've got you covered. This article will explore seven tips to help you reduce your application costs. We'll cover each in detail, but you can click on any of them to jump right to that section.


What is changing under USCIS's new rule?

First, let's talk a little bit about what is happening with the new USCIS fees. We've known about the Trump Administration's proposed rule for a while, but this new rule is slightly different. After several months of public comments, the proposed rule is now a "final rule." There are nearly 600 pages to USCIS's new law in the Federal Register, so we're going to give you a quick overview of the critical points. The most significant changes are:

  • Filing fees are increasing by a weighted average of 20%. The N-400 naturalization fee is increasing by more than 81%.
  • There is a new $50 fee for asylum seekers.
  • There will be no more fee reductions.
  • The income maximum for a fee waiver is decreasing from 150% FPL to %125% FPL.
  • The timeline for Premium Processing is increasing from 15 days to 15 business days.
  • Some forms are changing.

There are some positive things in the new rules. For example, there will be no more separate biometric services fees for applications anymore. The I-539 "application to extend/change nonimmigrant status" is now eligible for a fee waiver for specific populations. On the whole, though, applications are going to get more expensive and complicated. Let's take a look at some of the more critical parts of the new fee structures and form changes before we dive into our seven tips for affording the new fees.

Significant Filing Fee increases

Form Name Current Fee New Fee
N-400 Naturalization Application (online filing) $640 $1,160
N-400 Naturalization Application (paper filing) $640 $1,170
I-485 immigrant petitions for children under 14 filing with their parents $750 $1,130
I-131 Application for Travel Document $575 $590
I-129 For E Visas $460 $695
I-129 For H-1B Visas $460 $555
I-129 For L Visas $460 $805
I-129 For O Visas $460 $705
I-129 For TN Visas $460 $695
I-589 for asylum applications $0 $50

You can find a full list of the filing fee changes on the American Immigration Lawyer's Association if you're curious.

USCIS will post all updated fees on its fee schedule webpage. You can also find additional fee change news as it becomes available on USCIS' public news feed.

Important Form Changes

Some of USCIS's forms are changing, as well. USCIS will post the new forms on its website at least 30 days before the new rule goes into effect on 10/20/20. The forms that are changing include.

  • Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker;
  • Form I-600/I-600A, Supplement 3, Request for Action on Approved Form I-600/I-600A;
  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization; and
  • Form I-912, Request for a Fee Waiver.
  • I-589, for Asylum applicants and Withholding of Removal

The bottom line?

Filing for immigration benefits is about to get a lot more expensive and complicated.

Harder immigration applications are the last thing we need with COVID-19 pandemic still lurking around the world. Don't worry, though, we've got you covered. Here are our 7 tips to afford the increased filing fees and deal with the complicated new forms.

Tip #1: Apply for a fee waiver so that you don't have to pay the filing fees

If your household income is under 125% of the Federal Poverty level and you are filing a form that qualifies, you can apply for a fee waiver. Getting a fee waiver means you will not have to pay anything to submit your immigration forms. This will make it easier for you to afford the increased fees.

How do I calculate my household income?

To determine your household size for a fee waiver count the following people:

  • Yourself
  • The head of your household (if someone other than you)
  • Your spouse who lives with you, if you're married (don't include your spouse if they do not live with you or if you're separated)
  • Any family members who live with you and depend on your household income, including:

  • Your unmarried children or legal wards under age 21
  • Your unmarried children or legal wards between ages 21 and 24 who are full-time students (who live with you when not at school)
  • Your unmarried children or legal wards who are physically or developmentally disabled or mentally impaired
  • Your parents
  • Any other dependents listed on your federal income tax return or that of your spouse or head of household"

Which forms can I request a fee waiver for?

You can only request a fee waiver for certain immigration forms. For a full list, check out the forms listed under "Special Instructions" on USCIS's page for the fee waiver Form I-912.

Forms that you can request a fee waiver for include

  • Form N-400 Application for Naturalization (Citizenship)
  • Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization ("EAD") unless you are a DACA recipient
  • Form N-600 Application for Certification of Citizenship; and
  • Form I-90 Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card
  • Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Green Card or "adjustment of status" application) ONLY if you are an eligible immigrant type that does not have to pass the public charge test.

You can find a full list of forms that you can submit a fee waiver request with on USCIS's website.

To qualify for a fee waiver, you must demonstrate to the United States government that you can't afford the filing fee for one of the following reasons:

  • Your annual household income is at or below 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
  • You have a financial hardship (like significant medical expenses or unemployment).

To apply for the fee waiver, submit Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver with your eligible immigration forms. You do not need to pay the fees for those forms if you are requesting a fee waiver. USCIS will send you a notice asking you to pay the fees if they don't approve your application.

Tip #1: Apply for a fee waiver so that you don't have to pay with your USCIS filing fees

We can help you prepare a Form I-912 fee waiver with the rest of your application for free using our online app.

Tip #2: Ask organizations for help with your filing fees

Many organizations help immigrants with their filing fees. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask! Here are a few great places to seek help with your fees:

  • There are government-funded organizations that exist to help immigrants deal with the cost and complexity of the filing process. Some of them help with fees. Check out this list from USCIS and reach out to a few in your area.
  • Ask your employer to help pay your fees. Helping you get status helps them keep you as an employee. Hiring a new employee to replace you will probably cost them much more than the filing fees, so many employers are happy to help.
  • If you live in the San Francisco area, you can get a ZERO-interest loan from the nonprofit MAF to help pay your fees.
  • If you are a member of a church or other faith group, reach out to them. They may be willing to help you!
Tip #1: Apply for a fee waiver so that you don't have to pay the filing fees

Tip #3: Ask friends and family for help with your filing fees

Friends and family get to see precisely how the immigration process impacts your life, so they are often the best people to ask for help paying your fees.

One of the best ways to ask for help is to send letters and emails to select friends or family members. You can use this template as a starting point. It's designed for DACA  applicants, but you can tweak the language for your case.

It may help to think outside the box with your friends and family. For example, maybe instead of gifts for your birthday, you could ask for money to help you pay for your application fees. After all, what better gift could someone give you than the chance to live, work, and love in the U.S.?

Many immigrants can pay their filing fees with the support they receive from their loved ones. You'll never know until you ask!

Tip #3: Ask friends and family for help with the filing fees

Tip #4: Crowdfund your filing fees

Your immigration story is worth telling, and people want to hear it. If you're willing to share it online, you can probably get donations to help cover your filing fees from people you don't even know. The quickest and easiest way to do this is by setting up a crowdfunding campaign on a service like GoFundMe. It might sound crazy, but crowdfunding your immigration fees works.

Sharing your journey with random strangers may feel weird, but it can be a great way to raise money to pay your filing fees. This guide to crowdfunding legal fees contains everything you will need to set up a successful fundraising campaign. Give it a try - the kindness of strangers is a powerful force!

As part of our work, we often talk to reporters who want to share immigrant stories with the world. Send us an email to let us know if you'd like to speak with them. The publicity will make it easier for you to crowdfund your fees!

Tip #4: Crowdfund the filing fees

Tip #5: Pay your filing fees with your credit card

If you don't have the money to pay your fees right now but will soon, you can use your credit card to pay most immigration fees. Here is a full list of the forms that have filing fees you can pay with a credit card. All you will need to do is include a Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions

with your application forms.

We can help you prepare Form G-1450 with the rest of your application paperwork for free using our online app.

Tip #5: Pay the filing fees with your credit card

Tip #6: Work with a Legal Aid office

The immigration system is complicated, so Lawyers are expensive. Thankfully, many help immigrants for free or for a reduced rate. You can find free legal help at Usa.gov. These lawyers and clinics care a lot about legal immigration, but they often have more demand than time. Don't get discouraged if it takes a while to find one who can help you. You'll still have to pay your filing fees, but you won't have to pay an extra $2,000-$5,000 for a lawyer.

Tip #6: Work with a Legal Aid office

Tip #7: Prepare your forms without a lawyer - we can help!

There's a secret that lawyers don't want you to know...

You can prepare your immigration paperwork without them.

And when you prepare your forms without an attorney, you will save thousands of dollars.

We're not going to lie - U.S. immigration is complicated. It can be hard to figure out which forms to use, what information goes where, and what to do once you've got everything ready to file.

But with a little help, you can do it. And we're here to help!

ImmigrationHelp.org is a nonprofit that helps immigrants like you prepare and file their paperwork for free. With our simple online application, you can find out if you're eligible, prepare your forms quickly and easily, and get an expert review when your forms are ready. Then, we'll give you detailed filing instructions so that you know exactly what to do and when to do it. it's 100% free, and it's a great way to avoid the high costs of an attorney. We've already helped more than 1,500 people on their immigration journey, and we would love to help you!

Tip #7: Prepare your forms without a lawyer - we can help!

The new filing fees may eat into your savings, but we'll make sure that lawyers don't. We'll give you the tools you need to prepare and file your forms with confidence.

There you have it - 7 tips to help you afford the new USCIS filing fee increases. Whether you are filing an I-129, I-485, N-400, or have no idea what any of those things mean, we hope you found our tips helpful!

Immigration processes can be complicated, but working with a good immigration attorney can make it easier. If you can't afford the attorney fees and don't want to handle your case alone, we may be able to help. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!

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