US visa application processing fees increased

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Michael Phulwani is a prominent attorney admitted to practice law in New York, New Jersey and India. He practices immigration and nationality laws and visa matters in the USA and abroad. He is a frequent lecturer on immigration laws and co-hosts several TV and radio programs on immigration. In this column, Phulwani will discuss frequent problems relating to immigration legislation and answer questions from our readers. All questions should be forwarded to Michael Phulwani, 888 Maywood Avenue, Maywood, NJ 07607.

By Michael Phulwani
New nonimmigrant & immigrant application fees
Nonimmigrant visa application processing fees increased on June 4, 2010 and are tiered. Immigrant visa application processing fees and other immigrant visa services fees changed on July 13, 2010, and immigrant visa application processing fees will be tiered.

On June 28, 2010, the Department of State published its Schedule of Fees for Consular Services in the Federal Register.  The schedule includes fees for passports, immigrant visas and other consular services. The changes will take effect on July 13, 15 days after publication in the Federal Register. The revised fees will cover actual operating expenses for the 301 overseas consular posts, 23 domestic passport agencies and other centers that provide these consular services to US and foreign citizens.  

The 27 adjusted fees are based on a Cost of Service Study completed by the Bureau of Consular Affairs in June 2009.  The study, which was the most detailed and exhaustive ever conducted by the Department of State, established the true cost of providing these consular services, which by law must be recovered through collection of fees. (see chart below)

Under the new fee schedule, passport and other Consular fees are set as follows:

How and where to file complaints against notarios and immigration consultants?
The American Immigration Lawyers Association published a state-by-state guide to assist injured consumers with information to take legal action against immigration consultants and “notarios” who prey on America’s immigrant community.

Many non-citizens, who would otherwise qualify for immigration benefits, discover they will never be successful because  an immigration “consultant” destroyed their dreams. Don’t let this happen to you. While many legitimate community and religious organizations provide immigration-related services, non-lawyers, who advertise as legal “consultants” or “notarios,” are not authorized or qualified to help with immigration matters.

It is against the law for “public notaries” or even foreign lawyers, who are not licensed in the United States to provide immigration advice-even “just” filling out forms is something that only a licensed, properly trained lawyer or accredited representative should do. Only a US licensed lawyer or accredited representative is authorized and qualified to assist with your immigration case. Unlike consultants, lawyers have completed extensive education and training before being licensed to represent clients. You can verify whether a lawyer is in good standing and licensed to help you by contacting your state bar association. Lawyers are also required to maintain high ethical standards and if they don’t, you can contact your local bar association for action. When a consultant promises to help — but doesn’t deliver — the damage may not be fixable, and there may be no one to turn to.

Have you been harmed by a consultant or notario?
By promising too much — and knowing too little — unauthorized consultants often shatter immigrants’ dreams. They will promise low-cost, quick results, but often do not know the law. Even if they actually do the work and file papers, they may do it wrong and cause permanent harm. Furthermore, many are little better than scam artists, taking their client’s trust — and money — and never having to answer for the results. If you believe you are a victim of one of these consultants, then this guide will assist you in finding help in your state. You can ask the government to take action against the consultant, who harmed you. Your complaint can make a difference.

Using This Guide
This guide contains information, names, telephone numbers and addresses to help consumers take action against predators, who have harmed them and their immigration dreams.

Why is AILA Providing This Guide?
Because we are tired and fed-up seeing the damage these consultants do to immigrant lives and families. We are saddened by the heart-wrenching stories we hear when immigrants come to us after the notario or consultant has completely damaged  any opportunity the immigrant had to stay in this country and potentially become a citizen. We want to help. Our professional lives are dedicated to it.

Immigration laws and regulations are complex and challenging — don’t trust your status to a “notario.” You need an attorney, who specializes in immigration practice.

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