What a difference a single week makes. Last Monday, we were talking about filing new DACA applications, about I-944s and we definitely weren’t thinking about fee increases. This Monday, the exact opposite is true. Let’s break down the big news of the week…

DACA

USCIS announced some pretty major changes to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. While we were celebrating the Supreme Court victory and a Federal Court stating USCIS must accept applications, USCIS was busy trying to figure out how to do the most harm to this popular and vital program.

Effective immediately, DACA renewals will be on a one-year basis instead of the current two-year basis. This means work cards and renewals will have to be done every year, meaning you have to pay twice as often and increasing uncertainty as we never know how long USCIS will take to adjudicate a case. USCIS also stated that they will not be accepting any initial applications at this time.

Fee Increases

Last November, USCIS announced that they wanted to increase their fees and last week they announced the final product. Unless a lawsuit miracle happens, prepare for the following to be effective on October 2, 2020 (meaning USCIS must receive your application by October 1, 2020 to avoid the new fees) –

N-400 Naturalization – increasing from $640 to $1160 (online filing) or $1170 (paper filing)
N-336 Naturalization Rehearing – increasing from $700 to $1735
I-192 Waiver for T or U Visa Applicant – increasing from $930 to $1400
I-601 Waiver – increasing from $930 to $1010
I-601A Provisional Waiver – increasing from $630 to $960
I-751 Removal of Conditions – increasing from $595 to $760
I-765 (non-DACA) – increasing from $410 to $550
I-929 Waiver for Family of U-1 – increasing from $230 to $1485 (not a typo)

One-Step adjustment of status applications look like they’re decreasing at first glance, but once you start doing the math, you see that the price for permanent residency is going way up. First, children filing an I-485 with at least one parent no longer get a the reduced rate of $750 and will have to pay full price of $1130 (online filing) or $1140 (paper filing).

Second, USCIS is no longer bundling the forms. Currently, when one files an I-485, the $1225 filing fee includes the I-765 work card and the I-131 advance parole. Starting on October 2, 2020, if someone applies for a green card and wants to be able to work (and get a Social Security Number and driver’s license), and wants to be able to travel internationally while the case is pending, those two forms have to be paid for separately. That means that a standard one-step package that today costs $1760 in filing fees will cost $2325. Also, under the current system, work card and advance parole renewals did not cost anything extra. That will change on October 2 when USCIS will have applicants pay for each renewal. I don’t see USCIS adjudicating cases within a year anytime soon – do you?

Public Charge

Two federal courts ruled last week that while the country is in the midst of a pandemic that the public charge rule cannot be enforced against people seeking immigration benefits. The judges found that the rule disincentivized immigrants and their families from seeking health care and other assistance that would protect them and their communities.

USCIS just announced that applications filed after July 29th do not have to address public charge concerns. Most importantly, this means that the horrible form I-944 does NOT have to be filed at this time. Of course, this could change at any moment and USCIS may decide in the future to ask applicants for this documentation, but if you haven’t filed for adjustment of status because of the public charge requirements, you may want to go ahead and get the applications filed before this injunction goes away and before USCIS raises their fees.

The Only Thing Constant is Change

If you have questions about how any of these new policies and rules apply to your situation, contact us. Our firm is dedicated to helping immigrants and their families find the right path forward and to move forward in the most effective and efficient way.

– Tracie