Immigrating to the US—or becoming a citizen—is about to come with a hefty price tag. Starting this fall, immigration services of all kinds are increasing in price in the US, from work visas to naturalization. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency finalized a rule at the end of July that increases fees for various petitions and services by an average of 20%, with some services even doubling in price, on October 2.
Costs will be higher both for employers and individuals, and fewer fee waivers will be available. The agency is facing a serious budget shortfall, and is hoping to recoup some of the losses through fee changes. We’re breaking down the cost increases and what to expect in this post, so you can be informed and know what immigration benefits to apply for before the spike.
Increased Costs for Skilled Work Visas
Although petitions for new H-1B skilled worker visas are currently suspended, once they reopen again they will be pricier, increasing to $555 per application from $460. L Visa petitions will cost even more—$805. Most notably, the new rule also requires certain employers (those with more than 50 employees, and more than half of their staff on work visas) to pay fees on their employees not only when their visas are issued, but for extensions as well. Since fees for employers are $4000 for H-1B visas and $4500 for L-1 visas, the change could mean major cost increases for U.S. companies that rely on foreign workers.
High Costs for Naturalization
The largest increase in fees included in the new rule is for those who are attempting to become naturalized U.S. citizens. Permanent residents who wish to apply for citizenship currently pay only $640 for online filings. As of October 2, filing for citizenship will cost $1160.The increased costs may prevent some immigrants from being able to vote in the November elections, since non-citizens are not eligible to vote. The increase is the highest in American history.
More Expensive Work Authorization for International Students
Although the Trump Administration is no longer requiring international students to attend in-person classes to remain in the country, as was ordered in July, there are still changes coming for international students this fall. The application for international students to get employment authorization is increasing to $550 from $410.
Fewer Fee Waivers Available
In addition to higher fees, USCIS is scrapping many of the fee waivers that are currently available for low income immigrants. A few waivers are available for those with extenuating circumstances such as domestic violence, but income alone will not be enough to get a waiver.
Final Thoughts: Apply Now
If you have immigration needs you want to get done, like work authorization if you’re studying in the U.S. as an international student or applying for citizenship, now is the time to do it before the fee increases in October. You can learn more about the application processes for different services on the USCIS website, and of course keep up to date with government services news on our blog.