A Preliminary Injunction Stopped the Increase of Immigration Filing Fees
On Tuesday September 29, 2020, United States District Judge, Jeffrey S. White of California granted a preliminary injunction which stopped the increase of immigration filing fees. These fees were set to increase on October 2, 2020, because of a final rule issued by USCIS on August 3, 2020. The rule would drastically increase fees for common petitions and applications. It would also change the processing time for premium processing from 15 calendar days to 15 business days and modify the inter-country adoption processing as well.
According to USCIS, the need to increase USCIS filing fees stems from a major shortage in applications and petition, opponents of the fee increase argue that it comes at the expense of individuals and even businesses filing for their employees. The average fee increase is 20%. However, we can see an increase in up to 83% for citizen applications. The proposed increase is:
The plaintiffs in the California case consisted of a group of 8 non-profit organizations that aid low-income immigrants. They successfully put a halt to the increase in fees on September 29, 2020, by arguing that low-income applicants who would struggle to pay these fees would not be able to pay them at all with the increase. This would void their humanitarian protection which is something that no one should be stripped of. The nation as a whole would also see a major impact. The plaintiffs argued that this would lead to a drastic effect on tax revenue and would also decrease the number of people who go through the act of naturalization and therefore wouldn’t be able to perform civic duties such as voting which is essential in society today.
It is estimated that 97% of the USCIS budget relies on filing fees so they deemed it necessary to raise the fees and be able to successfully operate and provide adequate services with the proper resources. USCIS stated that the current fees do not recover the costs of providing these services, but it establishes a financial barrier to the immigration process in the U.S. These changes would start filtering out lower-income individuals out of the U.S. immigration system. The fee to become a naturalized citizen nearly doubles going from $640 to $1170 and can restrict a large group of eligible immigrants from applying. This change would have also been implemented during a pandemic which has already left a lot of immigrants unemployed and more financially unstable. The Trump administration is expected to appeal the injunction, but at least for now the fees will not increase, they will remain the same.
Patricia Elizee is the managing partner of Elizee Law Firm, an immigration and family law firm located at 1110 Brickell Avenue, Suite 315, Miami, Florida 33131. She can be reached at Ph: 305-371-8846