File Immigration Applications Now to Avoid Probable Fee Increases Later

Proposed immigration reform contains possibly major fee hikes.

Fee increases for U.S. immigration applications seem to come down the pike with depressing regularity. The U.S. government raises the fees, a hue and cry ensues, everyone eventually gets accustomed to the new, higher amounts for immigration applications, and then the immigration authorities come along with a new argument for why they need even more money.

This time, however, it could be different. As in, worse.

Under the current version of proposed immigration reform being debated in the Senate, raises to immigration fees appear to be the primary strategy for paying for the $40 billion in new border security (fencing, guards, etc.) mandated under the new law.

As described in "Fee Hikes an Overlooked Aspect of Proposed Immigration Reform," that means not only the usual fee raises, but possibly more if the government finds that the amount that can be amassed from the usual stream of immigrants' applications for green cards, visas, and so forth just isn't filling the coffers sufficiently.

Exactly which fees might be raised? The proposed legislation names many nonimmigrant visas, including H-1B, H-2B, L-1, F-1, B-1/B-2, and J-1, as well various waivers and the new types of immigration benefits or green cards created under the reform proposal (such as the "blue card"). The proposed law also, however, contains a blanket statement that if the fees from these applications (including fee raises) do not bring in enough, surcharges can be placed on any other type of application for a visa or green card.

To view the levels at which immigration fees are already set, see the "Forms" page of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, and articles on Nolo's website such as "How Much It Costs to Get a Green Card by Adjustment of Status" and "How Much It Costs to Get a Green Card by Consular Processing." They're already substantial.

If you're short on cash, the lesson is clear: Apply for your visa or green card now, if you can! Get that job offer, hurry up your wedding, or whatever it takes.