On November 14, 2019, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued notice in the Federal Register of its proposed rulemaking to increase fees by 21% overall, elimination of some fee waivers, and new fees for affirmative asylum applicants. If this rule is implemented, individuals, families, and businesses throughout the country will have additional financial constraints and considerations in requests for legal immigration services.
To put the increased fees in perspective, an individual application for Adjustment of Status to receive Permanent Residence, along with the derivative work and travel authorization requests fees are proposed to increase by 79%. This application currently is processed with the filing fee of $1,140, plus the required biometrics fee of $85 for a total of $1,225. This proposal would increase the application fee to more than $2,190. Additionally, an individual application for Naturalization is slated to increase by 83% to more than $1,300. Currently, this application’s base fee and biometrics is $725. The proposal specifically eliminates fee waivers for these application types, as well as many others.
Legal immigration service seekers are set to be impacted not only financially, but many may have to decide between proceeding in filing requests that are financially restrictive versus losing benefits that they have had until now or that were available without these changes. DACA recipients will see significant increases in filing fees. Asylum applicants may find a filing fee so restrictive that they will not file and could depart the U.S. to return to locations where they face persecution and death.
Further, this rule will impact business based processing with changes in the adjudicatory practice and processing of Premium Processing nonimmigrant visa applications. The new rule would remove the 15 calendar day adjudication period and replace it with a 15 business day period. This will slow the hiring and productive work that foreign workers fill for employers who sponsor.
Lastly, this rule proposes to transfer over $200 million in applicant fees to Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE). This is outside of the scope of the agency’s purpose and the functions that Congress intended when it created USCIS. USCIS is the affirmative benefit adjudicator and a self-funded agency. Redirecting the funds that are so crucial as to require a 21% overall increase to ICE, is a misguided and unwarranted plan.
This proposed rule does far more harm than good. Fee increases can be justified but the reasoning and use of the additional funds in this proposal should cause pause and consideration. The comment period is open for 30 days, ending December 16, 2019.
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