On Friday, November 8, 2019, the Trump administration modestly announced its latest modification of immigration rules and regulations. The Department of Homeland Security or DHS is proposing to raise United States Citizenship and Immigration filing fees by an average of 21%. DHS alleges that the filing fees "do not recover" the cost for processing the applications.
In a press release, a USCIS official explained that "unlike most government agencies, USCIS is fee-funded. Federal law requires USCIS to conduct biennial fee reviews and recommend necessary fee adjustments to ensure recovery of the full cost of administering the nation's immigration laws. USCIS is required to monitor incoming and outgoing expenses, just like a business, and make changes based on that analysis. This proposed adjustment in fees would ensure more applicants cover the true cost of their applications and minimize subsidies from an already over-extended system. Adjudicating applications and petitions and providing the necessary infrastructure to support those activities." They went on to say that "current fees would leave the agency underfunded by approximately $1.3 billion per year. The agency last updated its schedule in the fiscal year 2017. The rule proposes improving the USCIS fee schedules to a weighted average rise of 21% to ensure total cost recovery."
Most of the fees will increase in necessary to recover the full cost of services provided by USCIS. These include the costs associated with fraud detection and national security, customer service and case processing, and providing services without charge to refugee and asylum applicants and other customers eligible for fee waivers or exemptions. Director León Rodríguez of USICS stated, "We are mindful of the effect fee increases have on many of the customers we serve. That is why we decided against raising fees as recommended after the fiscal year 2012 and 2014 fee reviews. However, as an agency dependent upon users' fees to operate, these changes are now necessary to ensure we can continue to serve our customers effectively. We will also offer a reduced filing fee for certain naturalization applicants with limited means."
The calculated need anticipates a total revenue increase of approximately 20%, a sum that barely sustains a more than 60% hike in the cost of naturalization for most applicants. If USCIS proceeds to perform at current fee levels, it will undergo an average yearly shortfall of $1,262.3 million. The predicted shortfall acts at risk of degrading USCIS operations funded by the IEFA (Immigration Examination Fee Account).
Furthermore, the Trump administration is proposing to deliver more than $200 million from USCIS's enhanced earnings to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Funds that could be used to assist newcomers in taking up citizenship rather than to pursue down their less documented counterparts.
As part of the modification, the Department of Homeland Security is exploring adding fees to refugee seekers' applications and the restoration of work permits under DACA. For the first time under the program, Asylum seekers would meet a $50 administration fee, making the United States one of the few countries in the world to impute a price to humanitarian protections. The Department of Homeland Security stated, "DHS is exploring ways to alleviate the pressure that the asylum workload places on the administration of other immigration benefits." DHS also added, "A minimal fee would mitigate the fee increase of other immigration benefit requests."
Another change is to increase the filing fee for citizenship applications. Those that are applying to become a United States citizen would pay $1,170 from a former cost of $640, making it almost double the cost for an individual application. USCIS currently has a fee-waiver and a partial fee-waiver arrangement in place, which was expanded by the Obama administration. The new proposal would eliminate a reduced fee for applications from families with income between 150% and 200% of the poverty level. It is almost eliminating the waivers for everyone else.
Under the new plan, additional fees would be imposed for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewals. For deliberation of employment authorization renewal under the DACA program. Fees would go up by 20%, from $410 to $490, and the cost of a DACA authorization in itself would be $275; currently, it does not have a fee.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services announces the rate proposal in the Federal Register, and the agency will have 30 days to receive public opinion, as established by law. Following December 2, the comment period will remain open.
Proposed Rate Increases:
Form I-290B (Notice of Appeal or Motion) from $675 to $705.
Form I-485 (Application for Permanent Residence Registration or Adjustment of Status) from $1,140 to $1,610.
Form I-589 (Asylum Application) from $0 to $50.
Form I-751 (Petition to Cancel Residence Conditions) from $595 to $760.
Form I-765 (Work Permit) from $410 to $490
Form I-821D (DACA) from $0 to $275
Form I-881 (Application for Suspension of Deportation or Cancellation of Expulsion) from $285 to $1,800.
Form N-400 (Naturalization Request) from $640 to $1,170
Proposed Rate Decreases:
Form I-90 (Application to Replace Permanent Residence Card) from $455 to $415.
Form I-129 for H-2A (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) from $460 to $425.
Form I-129 for H-2B (Petition for a Nonimmigrant worker) $460 to $395.
Form I-129F (Foreign Finance Petition) from $535 to $520.
Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition as a Foreign Worker) from $700 to $545.
Form I-191 (Request for Relief Under section 212 (c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act) from $930 to $800.
Form I-485 (Application for Permanent Residence Registration or Adjustment of Status) from $1,140 to $1,120.
Form I-612 (Application for Exemption on Foreign Residence Under Section 212 (e) of the INA) from $930 to $525.
Form I-694 (Notice of Appeal Decision) from $890 to $725.
Form I-698 (Request for Adjustment of Temporary Status to Permanent Resident Under Section 245A of the Immigration and Nationality Act) from $1,670 to $1,615.
Form I-817 (Application for Family Unit Benefits) from $600 to $590.
Form I-910 (Application for Appointment as a Civil Doctor) from $785 to $650.
Form N-565 (Application for Replacement of Naturalization / Citizenship Document) from $555 to $545.
Form N-600 (Application for Citizenship Certificate) from $1,170 to $1,015.
Form N-600K (Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322) from $1,170 to $960.
USCIS Immigrant Fee of $220 to $200.
Biometric Services from $85 to $30 dollars.
Patricia Elizee is the managing of Elizee Law Firm, a full service immigration and family law firm.