USCIS has recently implemented substantial changes to its fee structure, affecting various green card categories including EB-1A for Extraordinary Ability. This article will dissect the key modifications, shed light on the reasons behind the fee adjustments, and offer valuable insights for those navigating the immigration process.
Understanding the USCIS Fee Increase
Since January 2023, USCIS had explicitly said it had plans to raise processing fees across the board. With the final rule now public, we explore the changes and their specific impact on EB1A green card applicants. While USCIS has dialed down some of the initially proposed increases, it is undeniable that obtaining a green card will become a more expensive endeavor.
Official Information on the USCIS Fee Increase
Before jumping into our analysis, it’s crucial to know where to find official information. The Federal Register hosts the complete text of the Fee Schedule, a comprehensive 207-page document. Additionally, USCIS has compiled a Frequently Asked Questions site to assist individuals in navigating this complex topic.
Effective Date of the Fee Increase
The fee increase went into effect on April 1, 2024, as specified in the rule. While some forms allow a grace period until June 3, 2024, during which applicants may use either the new or old version, updated fees must be submitted on April 1st. Notably, form I-140 does not have a grace period.
Reasons Behind the Increased Fees
USCIS reiterates its status as a fee-funded federal agency, with 96% of its funding derived from applicant fees. The fee increase is justified to facilitate smoother operations and reduce processing times. The previous fee structure, in effect since 2016 with no inflation adjustments, is no longer deemed sufficient.
Changes for EB1A Green Card Applicants
Most fees are being increased and EB-1A green cards are of course affected by this. We will take a look at the main effects in the table below. A notable positive change is the simplification of biometric fees, now included in processes requiring biometrics.
One significant negative impact is on the Adjustment of Status process (I-485) for those in the United States. The cost has increased by 18%, now totaling $1,440, and no longer covers interim benefits such as the Travel Document or Advanced Parole (I-131) and the temporary work permit or EAD card (I-765). These interim benefits must now be paid for separately.
Summary of Fee Increases for EB1A Green Card Applicants
Below is a summarized table highlighting the main changes for EB1A green card applicants:
Premium Processing fee increased previously announced
In a separate announcement, USCIS disclosed an increase in the Premium Processing fee for expediting a case. For I-140, the fee will rise from $2,500 to $2,805 on February 26, 2024.
Premium processing getting slower
In this recent fee update, USCIS announced that the definition of Premium Processing will change from 15 calendar days to 15 business days. This will mean that it will take slightly longer for the USCIS officer to adjudicate a case that had been expedited. For EB1A, this affects the I-140 process. This is because until now the 15-day timeframe included weekends and federal holidays, while from April USCIS will not count these days towards the 15-day period.
As anticipated, USCIS has raised all fees, impacting many green card categories and other visas. With changes effective from April 1, 2024, applicants need to exercise caution, especially regarding forms like I-140 with no grace period. The decision to file for interim benefits associated to Adjustment of Status should be made judiciously, considering the need for EAD cards and Travel Documents that will now add cost to the overall process.