Fees have been a part of the immigration process for quite a long time. While these costs are inconvenient, they were usually reasonable. Recent actions by the current administration, however, suggest the government wants to squeeze more money out of immigrating hopefuls.

Here is a summary of what has happened – and what might happen in the future.

Fee changes in the fall of 2019

In October, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began announcing a flurry of changes to immigration fees. That included the addition of a $10 fee for H-1B visa registration, and a $30 hike in the premium processing fee (from $1,410 to $1,440). The agency also attempted to remove the means-tested benefit criteria for fee waivers, but that move was halted by a federal court in December.

That’s not all, however.

Barring an abrupt change of plan, USCIS plans to make significant changes to immigration fees across the board. While a few applications will be cheaper, many are getting more expensive. Overall, immigration fees will go up by an average of 21%. That includes some alarming increases for commonly filed forms. For example:

  • The N-400 application for naturalization would go from $640 to $1,170, a jump of 83%.
  • An I-129L petition for nonimmigrant worker would go up by $355, landing at $815 rather than the current $460.
  • I-821D, which is part of the deferred action for childhood arrivals process, has always been free. Under this plan, filing the form would cost $275.
  • Form I-881, the application for suspension of deportation, would rise to $1,800 for both individuals (currently $285) and families (currently $570)

Unless USCIS changes its plans, these new costs are effective as of the new year, 2020.

Why USCIS wants to increase fees

The government agency says it is almost entirely funded by fees. It also claims, without any adjustments, USCIS will be $1.3 billion short on funds in the years ahead. While that may be true, these changes appear to target many of the people that would struggle to afford these high costs.

When you consider these changes and look at all of the other policies in recent years, it is clear they are trying to make it more difficult for people hoping to have a better life in the United States.