U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that the filing fees for most immigration filings and services will increase by an average of 21% as of December 23, 2016. USCIS will reject any immigration benefit request received on or after December 23, that does not include the new filing fee.
USCIS’s operations are funded almost entirely by the fees paid by applicants and petitioners for immigration benefits. Although the agency conducts fee reviews to determine funding levels every two years, fees have not increased since 2010.
The chart below highlights the changes in some of the most commonly filed applications and petitions. The full list of forms and related filing fees can be found on USCIS’s website. There will be no increase in the Premium Processing fee ($1,225), the biometrics fee ($85), or several other fees that are set by Congress. In recognition of the burden that the filing fees have on some applicants, USCIS will continue to consider fee waivers in certain circumstances.
One of the primary concerns any time USCIS raises fees is that the cost of filing the N-400 form puts the dream of obtaining U.S. citizenship out of reach for many eligible individuals. To address this concern, USCIS will create a three-level fee for the N-400 application. The standard fee will increase to $640 (not including the required biometrics fee). USCIS will also continue to exempt certain military members and those who qualify for a fee waiver. Finally, USCIS will reduce the fee to $320 for applicants whose household income is between 150% and 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
The rule implementing the fee increase also includes a change in how USCIS processes applications when a fee payment is dishonored or refused by the payer’s bank. Instead of processing the application or petition while giving the applicant the opportunity to correct the payment, USCIS will now reject any application or petition if the payment is dishonored after being presented twice to the appropriate bank.
If the application or petition has already been approved when the payment is rejected the second time, USCIS will notify the applicant or petitioner that it will revoke the approval for non-payment. Unless the applicant or petitioner can demonstrate that the payment was, in fact, honored, the benefit will be revoked.
As always, please contact us with any questions.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has published a revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. Between now and January 21, 2017, employers may choose to use either the current version (dated 03/08/2013) or the new version (dated 11/14/2016). Beginning January 22, 2017, employers must use the new version for all new hires and for reverifications.
Employers must complete a Form I-9 within three (3) days of hire to verify the identity and work authorization of all newly-hired employees, and to re-verify the work authorization of employees whose present work authorization will expire. Employers must use the version of Form I-9 that is current at the time of hire or reverification. Using an expired or invalid version of the form can result in penalties for noncompliance.
The new Form I-9 has several changes, including:
In addition, USCIS has separated the instructions from the form itself, consistent with other recent form revisions. The new separate instructions are more thorough and include specific guidance for completing each field.
The revised Form I-9 is also easier to complete on a computer. Enhancements include drop-down lists and calendars for filling in dates, on-screen instructions for each field, one-click access to the full instructions, and an option to clear the form and start over.
As always, please contact us with any questions.
The State Department has released the December 2016 Visa Bulletin listing the priority dates eligible for “Application Final Action,” i.e. when an I-485 adjustment of status (AOS) application may be approved or an immigrant visa (IV) issued, and the priority dates eligible for “Filing Applications,” i.e. when an AOS or IV application may be filed.
As has been the case since the new fiscal year began in October, December 2016 will see across the board advances in the “Application Final Action Dates” in the family-based categories. Each of the family-based categories will advance at least a few weeks.
In the employment-based categories, there will be movement in the EB-2 category for nationals of China and India, which will advance two months and three months, respectively. There also will be advancements of one week to nearly three months in the EB-3 category for nationals of China, India, and the Philippines. However, the EB-3 category for all other countries will remain static for December, as will the religious worker category and the EB-5 investor category for nationals of China.
The “Dates for Filing” for all family- and employment-based categories and all countries will remain the same as the November 2016 visa bulletin.
USCIS will make a separate determination whether to allow the filing of AOS applications under the “Dates for Filing” chart or the “Application Final Action Dates” chart in the visa bulletin and will post the applicable chart on its website. For November 2016, USCIS has determined that applicants must use the “Dates For Filing” charts for both family- and employment-based applications, but at the time of this post, no decision has been made for December.
The December Visa Bulletin also reminds that the non-minister special immigrant program and the Employment Fifth Preference Categories (I5 and R5) are set to expire on December 9, 2016, at which time visas in those categories will become unavailable unless Congress acts to extend them further.
Finally, the December visa bulletin includes some rough projections about future “Final Action Dates” given continuing high demand. Although expected to remain current in the coming months, the State Department expects the EB-1 category to retrogress for nationals of India and China at some point. Similarly, the department expects a retrogression of the EB-2 dates for all countries by July 2017. The EB-3 dates will be held in place for the foreseeable future, with the exception of EB-3 India, which the department expects to move one week, hold for several months, then move another week, then hold again.
You can view the visa bulletin in its entirety below. Please contact us with any questions.
This is a guest post by our friend Avi Gomberg of Gomberg Dalfen S.E.N.C., a law firm specializing exclusively in Canadian immigration law. For additional information, contact the team at Gomberg Dalfen here.
Effective today, November 10, 2016, certain international travelers will need an entry document called an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to travel by air to Canada. This applies to visa-exempt foreign nationals, in other words, non-Canadians who are not required to have a visa to enter Canada. The requirement only applies to those traveling by air, not those traveling by land or sea. It does not apply to citizens of the United States (those with U.S. residency (Green Cards) will require an eTA). Thus, if you require a visa to enter Canada or you are a U.S. citizen, you will not require an eTA.
What is the purpose of the eTA?
The implementation of the eTA program is a result of the Canada-United States Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan. In essence, the eTA is a security measure that allows the Canadian authorities to screen foreign travellers before they arrive in order to ensure that they are not inadmissible to Canada. In the absence of such a pre-screening measure, visa-exempt foreign nationals are not systematically screened for admissibility until they arrive at a Canadian port of entry. The eTA will allow the Canadian authorities to lessen the expense and delay to travellers, airlines and the Canadian government caused by the significant volume of travellers being deemed inadmissible when arriving at Canadian ports of entry. Reasons for inadmissibility include membership in terrorist groups, participation in war crimes or crimes against humanity, membership in organized crime groups, criminality, or public health risks. The United States has already implemented a similar travel authorization program. Travellers will need to show the eTA before boarding a flight to Canada, or they will not be permitted to fly to Canada.
It is important to note that the requirement to obtain an eTA does not dispense with any other authorizations or requirements applicable to the traveler such as work permits or study permits. In addition, the traveler remains subject to examination by the Canada Border Services Agency upon arrival in Canada.
Who will need an eTA?
Citizens of the following countries will need an eTA to travel to Canada by air as of November 10, 2016: Andorra; Antigua and Barbuda; Australia; Austria; Bahamas; Barbados; Belgium; British citizens*; Brunei; Chile; Croatia; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Denmark; Estonia; Finland; France; Germany; Greece; Hong Kong*; Hungary; Iceland; Ireland; Israel*; Italy; Japan; Republic of Korea; Latvia; Liechtenstein; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Malta; Monaco; Netherlands; New Zealand; Norway; Papua New Guinea; Poland; Portugal; Samoa; San Marino; Singapore; Slovakia; Slovenia; Solomon Islands; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; Taiwan* and Vatican City (Holy See)* - best to always consult the Canadian government’s website: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/visas.asp#wb-sec
* Please note that certain citizens of these countries do require Visas to travel to Canada and hence would not need an eTA
Certain individuals are exempt from the eTA requirement. This group includes individuals who hold a valid Canadian temporary resident visa, members of the British Royal Family, and certain foreign nationals seeking only to transit through Canada as a passenger on a flight stopping in Canada for the purpose of refueling, among others.
How to get an eTA?
Applicants can access the eTA application online at www.canada.ca/eTA. Applicants will have to provide passport details, basic personal information, responses to background questions and contact information. The online application process also allows the applicant to indicate whether there are any additional details pertinent to the application, where applicants can indicate any urgent need to travel to Canada, if applicable. No documents are required for the eTA application. The Canadian authorities may request additional documents later, to be submitted manually. Once the application is submitted, the applicant will receive an automated email confirming receipt and containing an application number and a link by which the applicant can check the status of the application. The cost is CAD$7.00. Applicants who are unable to submit the application electronically because of a physical or mental disability may do so by other means, including a paper form of application.
The eTA itself is an electronic document. There is no paper evidence or counterfoil provided to the applicant upon approval. Air carriers have access to the Canada Border Security Agency’s database to confirm the presence of an eTA prior to boarding the aircraft. Before a boarding pass is issued, the air carrier must receive an “ok to board” message from the CBSA database.
How long will it take to process and eTA?
Most eTA applications are approved within minutes of applying. However, some requests may need more time to process. If this is the case for an application, one can expect an email from Citizenship and Immigration Canada within 72 hours that tells you what the next steps are.
How long is the eTA valid?
The eTA is linked to the applicant’s passport. It is valid for five years or until the passport expires, whichever occurs first. The same passport used to obtain the eTA must be used for travel with the eTA.
Gomberg Dalfen S.E.N.C. provides this newsletter as a service to its clients and colleagues, to provide updates on changes in Canadian immigration law. The information contained in this newsletter is not intended as legal advice, and persons receiving this information should not act on it without consulting professional legal counsel.
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