Immigration fees to increase

Becky Smith

Kent State’s Office of International Affairs urges international students to submit immigration applications and petitions as soon possible because U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will increase application fees on July 30.

Deb Lyons, International Students and Scholar Services manager, said the office learned in February that an increase in fees was possible, but it wasn’t until May 30 that USCIS announced the increase would go into effect.

“The thing that concerns me the most is the significance of the increase,” Lyons said.

International students applying for an I-765 form, also known as an Optional Practical Training or employment authorization form, will now be paying $340 instead of the original $180.

The applications that have the most effect on students are the I-102 form, which allows students to obtain an I-94 nonimmigrant arrival-departure record; I-129 form, a petition for nonimmigrant workers; I-539 form, an application for extended stay as a nonimmigrant or change nonimmigrant status; and the I-765 form. Each of these application fees has increased by at least $100.

In a Jan. 31 press release, USCIS said the immigration fee increases will help the agency provide better services.

“As a fee-based agency, we must be able to recover the costs necessary to administer an efficient and secure immigration system that ultimately improves service delivery, prevents future backlogs, closes security gaps, and furthers our modernization efforts,” said USCIS director Emilio Gonzalez. “We’re confident that this fee adjustment will enable the type of exceptional immigration service our nation expects and deserves.”

Immigration fees haven’t been reevaluated since 1998, but USCIS said in a May 29 document it plans to reevaluate the fees every two years to ensure that the funds are covering the needs of the agency.

“(The whole issue) will certainly make it difficult for people who want to come to this country,” said Indira Sultanic, a graduate student from Bosnia and Herzegovina studying Spanish translation and a student assistant in the Office of International Affairs. “It will make them think twice, but it will also make them work harder for what they want.”

Despite the increases, Lyons said there might be good news for international students planning to graduate soon. As part of immigration reform, the I-765 form might be offered for 24 months as opposed to the typical 12 months, giving students the opportunity to stay in the United States an additional year to work, she said.

“If this is true, I’ll feel better about the fee increase,” Lyons said.

Contact international affairs and regional campuses reporter Becky Smith at [email protected].

Facing the Increase

While financial aid is limited, here is some advice for current and future international students who will be facing immigration fee increases:

• Plan ahead.

• Manage money wisely.

• Attend workshops on the Optional Practical Training (OPT) that the Office of International Affairs holds once each fall and spring semester.

• Read the international student newsletter for weekly updates.

• Be proactive – ask potential employers if they will pay the application fee.

• Work full-time on-campus during the summer.

Source: Deb Lyons, International

Students and Scholar Services manager