United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has posted an update that fee changes are coming. Those fee changes will have a significant impact on some application fees, and a minor change to other fees. If you have an immigration case that you are interested in filing, you may make an appointment with us for a free consultation to discuss your options before the fees increase.
USCIS must make these changes through a rule update. These changes are announced through the Federal Register. Once these rule changes are announced there is a period before the rules go into effect. The rule to change the fees was posted in the Federal Register on August 3, 2020 with an intent to make the rule effective on October 2, 2020. The intent is to start on that date, but there is litigation underway to block these changes as they are such a large change that they will block some individual from receiving the benefit.
One significant change is the change in price between filing a paper fee and filing online. It is without question that more issues have arisen for applications that file online because without the paper trail the applications can disappear. The applications also quit in the middle, the application is lost and you must start over. Due to this, all examples provided in the article will be for paper submissions to prove what was submitted and when.
Some examples of the more common applications and the changes to those fees include:
- Application for Asylum, from $0 to $50.
- Petition for Alien Relative increasing from $535 to $560, a 5% increase.
- Application to Register as a Permanent Resident from $1,140 to $1,130, a 1% decrease.
- Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence from $595 to $760, a 28% increase.
- Application for Employment Authorization (not DACA) from $410 to $550, a 34% increase.
- Application for Employment Authorization (DACA) is $410, unchanged.
- Application for Naturalization from $640 to $1,170, a 226% increase.
- Biometric Services (not DACA) from $85 to $30, a 65% decrease.
- Biometric Services (DACA) is $85, unchanged.
The clear items to call out on these changes include that USCIS anticipates DACA going away. Making no DACA changes gives less room for a legal appeal when the program is again terminated. Second, USCIS is making it more expensive to work. If it is more expensive to get a work permit then permit is less achievable. Third, removing conditions on a green card and gaining citizenship (naturalization) costs are increasing greatly. This approach to limiting the ability for individuals to join the United States as citizens is one of the reasons there is litigation taking place to block these changes.
If you have questions about your situation, or you are interested in getting a green card or citizenship for your family member, we offer a free consultation to review those options. We also offer payment plans so that you can get your process started without making a full payment up front. Contact us before the fees increase at (916) 917-5217! We look forward to speaking with you.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has begun to reschedule appointments around the country. The first interviews for USCIS Sacramento after closing down started taking place two weeks ago. Based on our experience, we wanted to make sure you understood what it now looks like to attend an interview with USCIS.
Remember your mask, safety first!
When you appear at the appointment, you will arrive 15 minutes early as the appointment letter from USCIS says to do. After entering the security of the federal building, you will approach a check in desk in the lobby to confirm your interview time and whether you have had any symptoms or come in contact with anyone else who has been ill. If you are early, wait for your time, as you will be instructed to leave until your appointment is 15 minutes or less away.
There are lines on the floor to follow and circles to stand in while you wait to ensure social distancing.
At the Sacramento USCIS office, all chairs in the waiting room have been removed to prevent contamination. The appointment time above is meant to ensure that no one has to stand for too long before being called back to their appointment.
USCIS Officer’s Office
Once the officer calls you back to their office, you will be seated across a desk from the officer. There is a clear plastic partition between the officer and yourself.
You will be asked to remove your mask to verify your picture identification, then you may put your mask back on. All efforts are made to ensure the room, chairs, fingerprint readers and touchpads are kept clean and sanitized.
Exiting the USCIS Office
Upon completing your interview, there is a specific path to walk out so that you are not passing by those in the waiting room or those who are entering the office for their interview.
Follow the marked paths and you are on your way to safely completing your USCIS interview!
If you are uncomfortable with your upcoming USCIS appointment and you would like to have a practice interview, review your materials or have an attorney accompany you to the interview, Schach Law Group offers these services. Call us at (916) 917-5217 to discuss your options.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA was recently the topic of a Supreme Court decision. There was much celebration over the decision and it was covered on all news outlets, social media and throughout communities across the United States.
With this attention there have been many calls to action, either to apply for an initial DACA submission or file for a DACA renewal for individuals. It is for this reason that we would like to review the current state of DACA.
The Supreme Court decision did not stand behind DACA as many have described. Instead, the Supreme Court decision took exception with how DACA was terminated. The lack of research, time and consideration that seemingly went into the decision was insufficient. Therefore, the Supreme Court laid out that if the program was to be ended, there would be necessary steps to be taken to show this proper consideration.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
As of this time USCIS has not been clear on the intent to allow for new DACA submission, nor for DACA renewals. USCIS has been clear on their view of DACA. USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow put out the following statement on June 19, 2020, “Today’s court opinion has no basis in law and merely delays the President’s lawful ability to end the illegal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals amnesty program.“ USCIS is not adjudicating the laws set forth to determine how the organization may proceed with new applications or renewal applications for DACA applicants. Rather USCIS Depty Director for Policy is actively campaigning for DACA to cease existence.
Due to the President’s clear intent to end DACA, coupled with the statement and lack of filing guidance from USCIS, that we anticipate the program to be declared terminated once again soon.
There is an application fee for a DACA application which, as with all applications fees, is non-refundable. These issues coupled with the application itself including the applicant’s address, we have reservations in submitting DACA applications.
We feel as though any DACA application at this point would be premature given the lack of guidance and potentially more harmful than helpful. We are monitoring the progress of DACA and taking note of those applications which are being filed across the country to determine the next steps.
Effective April 23, 2020 at 11:59 PM EDT, President Trump’s proclamation went into effect suspending the entry into the United States of immigrant individuals for at least 60 days who are:
The proclamation may be extended or altered. As of this time, the following individuals are exempt from the proclamation:
Non-immigrant visa holders and asylum seekers are NOT prohibited from coming to the United States by the proclamation.
There are multiple resources available throughout the community related to finances, mental and physical health, and scholarships for displaced students. Some of these resources include the F.U.E.L Program as part of the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, World Relief, California College Student Emergency Relief Fund, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, and the state of California.
What is Public Charge?
Immigration in the United States has long relied on individuals who were joining the country to build businesses and perform specialty crafts, from agriculture to medicine. As many immigrants have proven this out with new immigrants starting businesses, and now fighting against COVID-19 as doctors and nurses. USCIS has recently adjusted their perimeters around the requirements to potentially exclude those who have relied on public benefits for more than 12 months within the last 36 months, with each benefit counting separately if more than one benefit is taken in a particular month.
USCIS defines the groups included in the rule as:
· “Applicants for admission or adjustment of status to that of a lawful permanent resident (such applicants are subject to the rule’s public charge ground of inadmissibility unless Congress has exempted them from this ground)”
· “Applicants for extension of nonimmigrant stay or change of nonimmigrant status (such applicants are subject to the rule’s public benefit condition unless the nonimmigrant classification is exempted by law or regulation from the public charge ground of inadmissibility)”
USCIS states those who are excluded from the rule are:
· Certain T and U nonimmigrant visa applicants (human trafficking and certain crime victims, respectively); and
· Certain self-petitioners under the Violence Against Women Act.
These benefits are considered under the Public Charge rule, including:
· Supplemental Security Income;
· Temporary Assistance for Needy Families;
· Any federal, state, local, or tribal cash benefit programs for income maintenance (often called general assistance in the state context, but which may exist under other names);
· Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps);
· Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program;
· Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation);
· Public Housing (under the Housing Act of 1937, 42 U.S.C. 1437 et seq.); and
· Federally funded Medicaid (with certain exclusions).
USCIS includes benefits that are not considered as the following:
· Emergency medical assistance;
· Disaster relief;
· National school lunch programs;
· The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children ;
· The Children’s Health Insurance Program;
· Subsidies for foster care and adoption;
· Government-subsidized student and mortgage loans;
· Energy assistance;
· Food pantries and homeless shelters; and
· Head Start.
Will COVID-19 Harm Our Application Because of the Public Charge Rule?
COVID-19 Testing, Treatment and Preventative Care
USCIS came out on March 13, 2020, to state that it will not take into account "testing, treatment, nor preventative care (including vaccines, if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID-19" in the Public Charge decision, even if the benefit is from one or more public benefits, such as federally funded Medicaid.
As of now, USCIS suggests anyone with COVID-19 related symptoms, such as chills, a fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of smell or taste to seek medical treatment. USCIS has stated that seeking medical treatment "will not negatively affect any [foreign national] as part of a future public charge analysis."
May I Get Unemployment Insurance Without Harming My Immigration Case?
USCIS has stated that unemployment insurance is typically not considered when making a Public Charge decision. DHS has stated that it "would not consider federal and state retirement, Social Security retirement benefits, Social Security Disability, post-secondary education, and unemployment benefits as public benefits under the public charge inadmissibility determination as these are considered to be earned benefits through the person's employment and specific tax deductions." USCIS has also included in its Policy Manual that unemployment benefits are not considered by USCIS in a Public Charge decision because USCIS considers unemployment insurance to be an "earned" benefit.
May I Get Unemployment Insurance Without Harming My Consular Processing Case?
U.S. Department of State (DOS) has not given a finite answer on whether or not COVID-19 medical treatment, or financial assistance will be a part of the Public Charge decision for applications being processed at U.S. Embassies and Consulates.
During this time of uncertainty, the most important thing is to remain safe and healthy. Staying indoors can save the life of a family member, a neighbor or someone you have never met.
However, that does not mean you can not use this time to be productive. Now is the time you can search for your missing birth certificate, your passport, your marriage or divorce certificate. Some may need to collect information such as statements from family members or old neighbors. You can be using this time to gather information necessary to speak with an attorney about your immigration options.
There is little to no cost to locate and gather this information. There is also no cost for a consultation with many immigration law firms, including the Schach Law Group.
Use this time to get your immigration application in the mail so that when the world starts back up, your green card (I-485/DS-260), work permit (I-765) or citizenship/naturalization (N-400) will be waiting for approval.
Stay safe and stay healthy!
Welcome to 2020! There are new laws that have gone into effect on and around January 1, 2020 on a local, state and national level. Here are a couple of the changes in 2020 and how they may impact your immigration application.
Purchasing, possession and use of marijuana, in the legally mandated quantities is now legal in the state of Illinois. However, purchasing, possession and use of marijuana is still illegal at the federal level across the United States.
If you go to an interview with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and you are asked if you have used marijuana your answer should be 1) honest, and 2) no. Any use, even in California, Colorado, Illinois or any other state where it is legal to use marijuana is still illegal on the federal level and you should not be using any drugs that are prohibited by the federal government.
USCIS Fee Schedule
A proposal to increase rates on many USCIS applications including the Petition for Alien Relative and Application for Naturalization, among others. The comment period on this proposal ended on December 30, 2019. As of now, with the comment period completed, USCIS may look to implement these changes sooner than later.
If you are a green card holder that has been holding of on applying for citizenship, the application cost will potentially be going up from $640 to a proposed $1,170. If you have an application that you have delayed on filing, filing now will potentially save you hundreds in application fees.
On December 20, 2019 a new law went into effect, Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness (LRIF). If you are a Liberian refugee who has been in the United States continuously since November 20, 2014 you may be eligible to receive a green card. This may also extend to your spouse, children under 21 and unmarried sons or daughters over 21.
These applications are only being accepted for one year, until December 20, 2020, so act fast. If you know Liberian family or friends that could benefit, let them know about the program so that they can act before it ends.
Around the holidays it is easy to get wrapped up in the season. Festivities, family, parties, showing appreciation for the year. It is important to remember that being around family is a privilege for some that is taken away in an instant.
Extra activity by the government to increase deportations does not mean you will be an exception. A recent news article highlights that many deportation proceedings that were administratively closed are now being reopened. For those with an ability to be documented, now is the time to act. There are individuals who are having their closed deportation proceedings reopened, or those who will encounter police checkpoints, or those who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is to all of the individuals with options that I send the message - act now.
If you are married to a United States citizen and you are undocumented, it is time to speak with an immigration attorney. If you have a mother, father or child over 21 who is a United States citizen or green card holder, it is time to speak with an immigration attorney. If you have been the victim of a crime or have helped the police in their investigation of a criminal, it is time to speak with an immigration attorney. If you have been living with your United States citizen significant other, you have a child together, but you have are holding off to get married, now is the time to start the conversation. If you are undocumented and you do not understand your options, it is time to act now.
There are many reasons not to act on your status. You may be concerned about your family, or what could happen if you start proceedings, everything has been working until now, or even concern over money. However, you do not want to be making your immigration choices when you do not have the options to set your own schedule. Now is the time to take control of your future and the future of your family - act now.
Andrew Schach is the Managing Attorney at Schach Law Group. These blog topics are not intended as legal advice as each individual's case and history are different. Call for free consultation to review your options at (916)917-5217.