USCIS seeks to Increase Fees, Eliminate Fee Waivers, and Institute Filing Fees for Asylum Seekers

On November 19, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed a rule that would negatively affect U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) applicants and American businesses. The proposed changes reflect the current administration’s anti-immigrant policies and demonstrate how USCIS has forgotten its purpose of service.

USCIS seeks to increase the fees required for many applications. This in turn will likely prevent many individuals from submitting applications they are legally entitled to pursue. For example, currently, I-485 adjustment applicants who wish to file for their I-765 work permits and I-131 advance parole documents (travel documents) concurrently must pay one filing fee of $1,140. Under the new rules, they would have to pay $1,120 for the adjustment application and an additional $545 for their work permit application and $585 for their advanced parole application, meaning that they must pay a 97% increase in fees from $1,140 to $2,250.

Some of the other fee increases can be seen in petitions for nonimmigrant workers. Currently, the filing fee for all I-129 applications is $460. However, under the new proposal, each type of I-129 will have its own filing fee and each one of the proposed fees is higher than $460. H-1 application fees will increase 22% from $460 to $560. O-1 application fees will increase 55% from $460 to $715. E and TN application fees will increase 53% from $460 to $705. L-1 application fees will increase 77% from $460 to $815. H-3, P, Q, and R fees will increase 53% percent from $460 to $705. DACA renewal fees will also increase by 55% from $495 to $765. Perhaps the most egregious increase of fees will fall on qualifying members of U-1 Nonimmigrants: the fee for I-929 petitions will increase by 558% from $230 to $1515.

USCIS desires the elimination of crucial fee waivers for certain applications. Again, this move will likely prevent many individuals from pursuing options within our legal immigration system. There will be no more fee waivers for applications to replace permanent resident cards (I-90), applications for employment authorization (I-765), CNMI related applications, applications to register permanent residence or adjust status (I-485), forms for applicants exempt from the public charge inadmissibility ground, petitions to remove conditions on residence (I-751), and naturalization and citizenship related forms.

Iran, Fiji, and Australia are the only countries in the world that charge a fee for asylum seekers. USCIS’ proposed changes would make America the fourth. If approved, these changes may result in the deportation and death of legitimate asylum seekers.

USCIS claims that these price increases are necessary “to recover the full operating costs associated with administering the nation’s immigration benefits system, safeguarding its integrity, and efficiently and fairly adjudicating immigration benefit requests, while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our country’s values.” These claims may have been believable if not for the fact that USCIS sent hundreds of its own employees to work for ICE and CBP in FY2019. USCIS is a separate entity from ICE and from CBP, and its purpose is that of service and not enforcement. Yet, in this proposal USCIS desires to transfer over $100 million in USCIS applicant fees to ICE. This blurring of agency lines may explain why USCIS feels like it is not recovering its operating costs and why USCIS feels like it cannot get its work done on time. USCIS is requesting that the 15 day premium processing deadline be changed from 15 calendar days to 15 business days. If USCIS could only remember that it is not bound to ICE or CBP but rather to its mandate to serve, these changes may not have been proposed at all.

 

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