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Emission of visas and greencards: understand the important changes planned for october

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On August 25th, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced it would be shutting down its administrative procedures, as a result of the dismissal, for an indefinite period of time, of about 13,000 of its employees (the “USCIS Administrative Furlough”) , due to the need to cut costs from the American immigration agency’s budget. This unprecedented decision would have taken effect on August 30th.

Fernanda Marques, lawyer with the legal team at Drummond Advisors, talking with Louanni Cesário, senior lawyer in charge of the Business Immigration team, about these changes and how they will impact immigration to the USA in the coming months.

However, due to strong bipartisan pressure from Congress, the measure was canceled, and as one of the possible solutions to remedy the USCS budget deficit, the agency opted to readjust some of the fees related to applying for visas and greencards, as well as canceling some contracts with suppliers which were considered to too expensive.

The new fees will take effect on October 2nd, 2020, and will cover both petitions for work visas, as well as greencards, naturalization requests, work permits and requests for change and adjustment of status, as shown in the table below:

Form Number/Purpose Old Fee New Fee %
I-129 (H-1B) $460 $555 21%
I-129 (L-1) $460 $805 75%
I-129 (O-1) $460 $705 53%
I-131 (Application for Travel Document) $575 $590 3%
I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) $700 $555 -21%
I-485 (Application to Adjust Status) $1,140 $1,130 -1%
I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status) $370 $390 8%
I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) $410 $550 34%
N-400 (Application for Naturalization) $640 $1,170 83%

It is important to note that, despite the significant increase in fees for I-129 petitions, for work visas such as L-1 (intra-company transfer of executives and managers); O-1 (extraordinary skills) and H-1B (specialized professionals), there was also a decrease in fees for I-140 petitions, for greencards such as EB-1 (extraordinary skills) and EB-2 NIW (exceptional skills). At the same time, USCIS is expected to publish updated versions of various forms.

With regards to this, changes were made to form I-765, used to request the issuance of an Employment Authorization Document (“EAD”), which guarantees a temporary job permit for professionals who do not have permanent residence in the country yet. The new edition of the form has been in effect since 08/25 and, as of that date, USCIS will officially reject any EAD requests submitted with the previous version of I-765.

Louanni Cesário, an immigration lawyer at Drummond Advisors, says “Even though this had been expected since before the pandemic, these new fees will represent an entry barrier to some companies and people, especially in this time of crisis. However, even with these changes, the most important thing is to be well advised in the process in order to minimize risks and unnecessary expenses ”.