Friday, December 23, 2016

Holiday Gifts: Our Fees Stays the Same While USCIS Fees Increase

USCIS is increasing their filing fees across the board effective December 23, 2016. We have parsed through the fee summary charts and organized the fees into those that affect the services offered by our firm. We wanted to pass this on to our potential clients to help you plan ahead and also include a little Holiday Surprise during this time of the year.

Your Holiday Gift
We know that it may be overwhelming to cope with the increased fees from USCIS. That's why we want you to know that while USCIS fees may be increasing, our firm's fees will not be increasing this year. So, call us to get your case work into our firm! We can't promise the same for 2018.

Here is a summary of what is happening to USCIS fees for the services that we offer. We have categorized them into your purposes for filing the petitions, to provide you a more organized chart for your needs.

Family Petitions
For the most part, USCIS has not increased the filing fees related to family petitions by more than $200. Thankfully, they understand that it is hard enough for families to come up with the payment of these fees already.

Form Title Old Fees     New Fees
I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) $340 $535
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative $420 $535
I-751 Application to Remove Conditions on Residence $505 $595
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization $380 $410

Employment-Based Petitions
For the most part, filing fees for Employment-based petitions, similar to the Family Petitions, also have only increased a little over $100, staying manageable for employers, both large and small. 

Form Title Old Fees     New Fees
I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker $325 $460
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker $580 $700

Adjusting/Changing/Extending Status 
There is also no cause for panic if you want to simply change or extend your status. This affects those that are here on temporary visitor or student visas such as B1/B2, F1, M1, or J1. Same with Adjustment of Status to that of a Permanent Resident after the USCIS has approved your family petition (I-130) or employment petition (I-140) and your priority date is current on the visa bulletin.

Form Title Old Fees     New Fees
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status $985 $1,140
I-539 Application to Extend/change Nonimmigrant Status $290 $370

Waivers - Higher Increases
What we are concerned about for our clients is these new fees for the waivers of inadmissibility. For those of you who are not familiar with waivers, most of these require showing a exceptional to extreme level of hardship that could be suffered by a qualifying relative if the petition is not granted. By increase these fees by almost $350, it seems that USCIS is bent on adding even more "hardship" to the applicants and their relatives who are already suffering from extreme or exceptional hardship. Sympathetic to the plight of our clients, if we have to submit a waiver for your petition in 2017, we will give you a 10% discount, around $100 in savings.  

Form Title Old Fees     New Fees
I-212 Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the U.S. After Deportation or Removal $585 $930
I-601 Application for Waiver of Ground of Excludability $585 $930
I-601A Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver $585 $630
I-612 Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement (Under Section 212(2) of the INA, as Amended) $585 $930
I-690 Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility $200 $715

International Entrepreneurs 
For your convenience, we have also included the following chart for those thinking about utilizing the EB-5 Investors Program to become a permanent resident of the country. The filing fee for the immigrant petition has more than doubled. But otherwise, the fees affecting individual investors have stayed the same, the majority of the increase comes from regional center certifications.

Form Title Old Fees     New Fees
I-526 Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur $1,500 $3,675
I-829 Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions $3,750 $3,750
I-924 Application for Regional Center Designation Under the Immigration Investor Program $6,230 $17,795
I-924A Annual Certification of Regional Center $0 $3,035

J-1 Visa: Foreign Residency Requirement, No Objection Statement (China) and Exceptional Hardship Waiver

We recently worked on a J-1 Visa case where the young lady came here from China on a J-1 Visa, married a U.S. Citizen, and is now seeking a waiver for her foreign residency requirement. The wonderful thing is that J-1 Visas are a good substitute for the overused H-1B, as long as the employer hires through a sponsoring organization. This topic is beyond the scope of this blog, but please contact us if you are interested in finding out how you can do this.

There were several issues with the Foreign Residency Requirement...
First, the DS-2019 had checked the box specifying that she was "Not subject to the foreign residence requirement." However, the advisory opinion that the prior attorney received stated that she WAS subject to the requirement, because her "field of specialization is included on the Exchange Visitor Skills List for the exchange visitor's country." Here, the moral of the story is that you can't go by the DS-2019, you should request an advisory opinion, which would help clarify the situation. However, as with all issues in law, this takes time, about 4-6 weeks at the very least.

Why was there a prior attorney? 
The backstory to why the client came to us is that the prior attorney took too long to get back to them regarding this issue. With the fee increase happening on December 23, the client was getting anxious and began searching for an alternative immigration attorney. In this case, we were able to take care of it at a much lower cost and we got the petition in before the fee increase that took place on December 23rd. The fee increase would have raised the filing fee for Form I-612 (Exceptional Hardship Waiver) from $585 to $930!

Understanding the time-sensitivity of the situation, when this particular client contacted us, we got to work right away for her. We found out that we could file the No Objection Statement AND the Exceptional Hardship Waiver at the same time, to double her chances of getting her foreign residency requirement waived. To start the process, you have to fill out the DS-3035 Form from the Department of State and in the Statement of Reason, mention both reasons.

No Objection Statement 
We would recommend that you request a No Objection Statement from your home country's embassy in any case, unless you are a foreign medical physician and do not qualify.

To request a No Objection Statement from China is rather complicated as you do not request it directly from the Chinese Embassy, but from a non-profit organization affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education, the New York Service Center for Chinese Study Fellows, Inc. For more information on how to request, after completing the DS-3035, see J-1签证豁免. This is also where you would send the Third-Party Barcode page provided with the DS-3035, along with all their requested documents. 

Exceptional Hardship Waiver
Next, we had to address how the U.S. Citizen spouse could suffer exceptional hardship in the event that the J-1 spouse is forced to complete her foreign residency requirement. You have to address (1) how the U.S. Citizen spouse will suffer exceptional hardship if he leaves the country with the J-1 spouse, and (2) how the U.S. Citizen spouse will suffer exceptional hardship if the J-1 spouse leaves without him. And of course, corroborate everything you say with evidence to avoid further Requests for Evidence from USCIS!

In this case, we had a lengthy conversation talking about how the U.S. Citizen spouse's career would be disrupted, how he would be forced to leave his grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer's, how he himself suffers from a stress-caused illness that must be monitored carefully.

If all this information overwhelms you, that is why we are here, contact us at 617-871-0788 for help!