USCIS has announced a new schedule of fees that will raise the filing fee amount for 40 different USCIS forms, effective December 23, 2016. The average increase in fees is $476, but when this figure is skewed by the substantial increases in fees for certain application for the EB-5 Investor Visa program. When these fee increases taken out of the equation, the average increase is $205 and the average percentage increase is 28%. The average percentage increase is over 50% (again, primarily attributable to the EB-5 Investment Visa program), and the median increase is about 25% over the previous amount. Half of the fee increases were less than $100 and accounted for a proportionate increase of 25% or less.
In the area of family-based immigration, notable increases are as follows:
Form I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) is going up from $340 to $535, for an increase of $195, or 57%.
Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative is going up from $420 to $535, for an increase of $115, or 27%.
Form I–485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status is going up from $985 to $1140, for an increase of $155, or 16%.
Form N-400 Application for Naturalization is going up from $595 to $640, for an increase of $45, or 7%.
Under the new fee schedule, the form N-400 Application for Naturalization will permit for a new partial fee waiver for applicants, for those with household incomes greater than 150% and not more than 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. A new Form I-942, Request for Reduced Fee, can be completed and submitted with the N-400, along with the reduced application fee of $320, plus the biometrics fee of $85.
The large increases related to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program include: An increase of from $1,500 to $3,675 (or 145%) for the Form I–526 Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur and a whopping increase from $6,230 to $17,795 (or 183%) for the Form I‑924 Application for Regional Center Designation.
Below is a list of all of the forms for which the fee increases will become effective December 23, 2016, along with the amount by which each form increases and percentage. See USCIS's website for more details.
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The U.S. Department of State released the monthly Visa Bulletin for January 2017. The Visa Bulletin summarizes the availability of immigrant numbers as of this month. These figures inform visa applicants when they can either move forward with the processing of an Immigrant Visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad or, for those seeking to become permanent residents from within the United States, file an application to adjust status with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
For family-based immigration, the dates on which applicants can expect to move their cases forward for each category progressed fairly uniformly and unsurprisingly compared with the dates for the previous month. That is, they moved ahead approximately 30 days, with the exception of the F-3 category for Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens, which only progressed about two weeks. (Note, the dates for individuals from China, India, Mexico and the Philippines have unique priority dates for applicants and those figures should be consulted individually.)
For employment-based immigration, most categories progressed by approximately one month across the board.
Interesting article on the impact of deportations on the U.S. housing market by TheUpshot, a New York Times division focusing on politics, policy and economic analysis. TheUpshot reports that new research suggests that the dramatic increase in deportations of undocumented immigrants over the last decade helped exacerbate home foreclosures. In "Counties that collaborated iwth ICE in what became a large-scale deportation sweep experienced a surge in foreclosures of homes owned by Hispanics, according to a study ... published in the journal of Sociological Science." See "Why More Mass Deportations Would Be Bad News for the Housing Market," New York Times:TheUpshot, Dec. 8, 2016.
President Donald Trump issued a controversial Executive Order intended to ban travel to the United States for 90 days of foreign nationals born in seven, Muslim-majority countries. The Order was enjoined in part within twenty-four hours by U.S. District Court Judges in New York and Massachusetts. Within a week, a U.S. District Court Judge in Washington state halted the initiative entirely until a full hearing on the constitutionality of the Executive Order could be heard. On February 10, two weeks after the Executive Order was issued, a three-judge federal appeals court weighed in and upheld the district court’s ruling that halted the travel ban. A full-panel of the same federal appeals court is now considering the validity of injunction of the President’s Executive Order. See guidance posted on the website of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for the latest government policies on implementation of this travel ban.
The Executive Order would have barred for 90 days all travel to the United States of anyone with the following seven nationalities: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. The Order also would bar for 120 days, the entry of any refugee who is awaiting resettlement in the United States. Syrian refugees would be barred from entering the U.S. indefinitely.
The initial roll-out of the Executive Order was confused and disorganized, by any standard. For example, it was not clear at the outset whether the Executive Order was intended to cover Lawful Permanent Residents of the United States (also known as green-card holders) who happened to be traveling abroad at the time the Executive Order was issued. While a few days later, the White House clarified that the ban was not intended to cover lawful permanent residents, the confusion led to many permanent residents from these seven countries traveling on the initial days of the ban being sent back to their country of embarkation by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents. Later, the White House clarified that lawful permanent residents would be allowed to re-enter on a case-by-case basis, subject to additional scrutiny at airports and other border control posts. As of February 15, 2017, the Executive Order is enjoined until further action by the federal courts.
Congress enacted some changes to the Visa Waiver Program, which allows citizens of 38 mostly western nations to enter the United States without a visa. The changes to the program (oftentimes referred to as or ESTA for “Electronic System for Travel Authorization”) bar individuals from participating in the program if they have traveled to certain countries where terrorism may be supported or are otherwise “of concern” to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in the last 5 years. The countries include Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Sudan, or other countries designated by DHS as supporting terrorism or “of concern.” It remains unclear how CBP and other agencies will implement and enforce the new law.
The new law exempts those performing military service in the armed forces of a VWP country or those carrying out official duties in a full-time capacity in the employment of a VWP country government. In addition, DHS may waive exclusion from the VWP program if it would be in the law enforcement or national security interests of the United States.
The new law also excludes from the VWP individuals who are nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran, or Sudan in addition to being a national of a country that is a part of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. Nationality typically depends on the laws of the designated country, so it is important to note that an individual may be a national of a particular country, even if he or she has never resided in that country and/or does not have a passport issued by that country.
To participate in the VWP an individual must possess at the time of application for admission an electronic passport that is machine-readable.
In addition to the restrictions imposed upon individuals, the new law also includes new conditions for participating countries, such as passport security requirements, screening protocols, and information sharing. The new law also includes revocation provisions for countries failing to meet the new requirements. Some of these country requirements take effect immediately and others must be implemented within the next year.