If you have been keeping track of the recent Presidential election, you know that there has been a lot of speculation in the media about how the election of one candidate or another may affect immigration and those seeking entry to the United States. Amongst all of the political rhetoric, one thing you may have missed is that since the last upgrade in 2010 when immigration fees were raised dramatically for the first time in several years, fees are being increased again, effective December 23, 2016. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides a summarized chart on their web page as well as a link to the full list of fees. While most increases are modest, a few stand out as significantly higher. Some of those involve complex agency fees and services, such as businesses that support entrepeneurs who wish to immigrate. These are complex and would be difficult to complete by December 23rd or without a specialized immigration attorney; unless they move very quickly, these investors will have to pay the higher fees. To some applicants and petitioners, though, the date of filing may make a big difference in the direct cost to you.
Let's take a look for a moment at citizenship; the N-400 and N-600 applications are both relevant. The N-400 is an application to start the naturalization process whereas the N-600 is an application to obtain proof of citizenship. The N-600 application fee prior to December 23, 2016 is $600 ($550 for adoptees), but on or after that date applicants will have to pay $1170 filing fee. Those wanting to avoid the fee increase would have to have the applications completed and sent by December 23, 2016. N-600 is used for anyone under the age of 18 (on certain dates) who was not born in the United States, but still has a right to United States citizenship by birth or relevant life event, such as adoption by a U.S. Citizen or naturalization of a parent, in accordance with the relevant laws at the time they were born. N-400 is used for anyone who has lawful permanent resident status and meets eligibility requirements to become a citizen. Both applications involve an interview, but a person who is approved for an N-600 does not need to be naturalized as he or she is already a citizen, while a person who is in process with an N-400 will have to pass a civics and english test in addition to the interview. The N-400 application is only increasing modestly from $595 to $640, more representative of the typical fee changes taking place.
In addition the new fee structure has added a tier system to the fees by charging significantly less for an N-400 that is filed by a person with income at 150-200% of the poverty level for their family size. So, while those filing an N-600 may want to rush to file their application prior to December 23, 2016, those whose income levels fall within that threshhold may actually want to wait until after. It is worth noting, though that both applications are free for qualifying military veterans. Also, for some applicants and petitioners who are experiencing financial hardship, it is possible to file for a fee waiver and be exempt of fees for that particular application, if approved. A full listing of USCIS fees before and after December 23, 2016 is available on their website.