RPIs Bear the Cost of Immigration Reform

With all this talk about immigration reform, there’s been little talk about the actual cost to the USCIS’ would-be customers – the intending immigrant population – in the event immigration reform were to be passed.  What are the costs and how should practitioners realistically prepare their clients?  Let’s tackle this one step at a time, while we’re the sailing is still somewhat smooth.

The Fees

Here’s what we do know about the universe of immigration fees.  (My hunch is that the chances of immigration fees going up, even ever-so-slightly, are high.)  The current filing fees for foreign nationals who wish to obtain a pathway to permanent residence who are already residing in this country are as follows (taken from USCIS’ webpage.)

Fee Process Type
$ 580/420 Immigrant Petition (employment or family)
$ 985 Legal Permanent Residence
$ 85 Biometric fee
$ 585 Waivers
$ 380 Employment Authorization
$ 465 DACA
$ 595 Naturalization

Currently, foreign nationals who take the typical route of securing legal permanent residence in the U.S. and who are already residing in the U.S. must pay government filing fees of a minimum of $1,490 – $1,650, depending on whether it was through family or employment sponsorship.  [I’m oversimplifying the routes here for sake of brevity.] For individuals who may be eligible for a waiver, there would be an additional government fee of $585. The current Senate Immigration Bill (S.744), if passed and enacted into law, would require Registered Provisional Immigrants (RPIs) to pay a penalty of $1,000 along with any assessed back-taxes. It would also mandate the individual renew his/her RPI status, which would likely result in another round of government application fees.  Finally, it would impose another $1,000 penalty fee (if I’ve read the bill correctly) if/when the individual was finally eligible to apply for Legal Permanent Residence.  Then, if the individual qualified for naturalization wished to apply, a final government fee of $595 would be required.

Fee Process Types for Registered Provisional Immigrants (RPI)
$ TBD   Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) Application
$ 85   Biometric fee
$ 1,000   RPI Penalty
$ TBD   Back Taxes (if any)
$ 585   Waivers (if applicable)
 .  .
$ TBD   Renewal for RPI Status
$ 85   Biometric (may be imposed again)
 .  .
$ 985   Legal Permanent Residence (LPR)
$ 85   Biometric fee
$ 1,000   LPR Penalty fee
. .
$ 595   Naturalization (Citizenship)
$ 85   Biometric fee

RPI eligible immigrants may find themselves needing to save, at minimum, a few thousand dollars just to cover government filing fees. Jesse Lloyd, Partner at Bean + Lloyd, LLP of Oakland, California, estimates that while the filing fee for RPI status has not been set in the proposed bill, it could be anywhere between “$500 and probably closer to $1,000.”  When I looked closely at the fees USCIS has historically set, I have to agree with Mr. Lloyd that his estimates are about right.

Paying Back Taxes

Regardless of what immigration reform bill will be passed in the future, I have no doubts that intending immigrants will be required to pay back taxes.  The issue, as Mr. Lloyd puts it, will be a question of when and how.  He writes about it here.  Like they say, “Taxes and death are inevitable.”  Intending immigrants should seriously consider and start saving.

Preparing Future (and Current) Clients on Fees

The government filing fees, penalties and back taxes will add up for each applicant.  While it may be premature to discuss specifics on how and when, it’s never premature to talk about the potential costs of government fees, particular when we already know what some of those fees are. Help prospective clients and their family members understand how much the government-related fees may be so that they may start saving now.

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