Immigration application fees, including those for DACA, green cards, naturalization certificates, u-visas, work permits and renewals, significantly increased Monday. This change deals a substantial blow to San Francisco’s low-income immigrants, who already struggle with job instability and high cost of living.

This change is the first major fee adjustment the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has made since 2016 to support operating costs and speed up processing times for new applications. 

“It’s very unfortunate,” said Bay Area immigration attorney Natalia Vieria Santanna. “I do hope [the change] translates to faster processing times, but I’m a little skeptical because all the petitions are taking so long … I have to see it to believe it.” 

Here are some of the immigration applications that saw a major uptick in fees:

  • Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative), used for family reunification, increased by 26% to $675
  • Form I-129F (Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)), used for people who want to bring their fiance to the U.S., increased by 26% to $675
  • Form I-485 (Adjustment of Status), used by people seeking green cards or permanent residency, increased by 18% to $1,440. Additionally, two formally free applications used in this process now cost an extra $260 (Form I-765) and $630 (Form I-131)

“In my opinion the family petition should not be raised,” said Santanna, who said these changes will negatively impact families applying for relatives, as well as prevent applicants from filing for a work permit. “In my office we will try to work with better payment plans because there’s not much we can do after April 1.”

Santanna suggests filing online petitions instead of paper to save $50 on each application. She also advises that people submitting Form N-400, the Application for Naturalization, should double check their eligibility for a fee waiver. Individuals who can prove their household income is below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines can qualify.

“For other kinds of cases that we work with, U visa petition, a T visa petition or a special immigrant juvenile petition, all the fees are exempt,” Santanna said.

For people in San Francisco who are not able to afford the steep fees, Santanna recommends reaching out to local organizations that can help pay them, including the Mission Asset Plan or the City of San Francisco.