USCIS Raises Filing Fees to Cover Agency Shortfalls When Fewer File for Benefits
Dallas, TX (Law Firm Newswire) September 25, 2020 – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), on July 31, 2020, announced significant increases to filing fees across the board for naturalization applications and some of its most common immigration processes, including employment-based petitions. Filing fees will increase by a weighted average of 20 percent on October 2, 2020, when the new structure goes into effect.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security claims that the fee increase is necessary to improve agency efficiency and to recover operating costs amid budget shortfalls. Earlier this year, USCIS sought to furlough over 13,000 employees based on a steep decline in filings. The plan was postponed, but applicants almost certainly will experience delays in case processing times if USCIS proceeds with the proposed furloughs.
“Evidently, Congress never accounted for a substantial drop in immigration benefit filings when it required USCIS to be user funded,” commented Stewart Rabinowitz of the Dallas and Frisco law firm of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. “Owing to COVID-19, and the overall nativist tenor of the Trump Administration toward any immigration benefits, overall filings are estimated to be down more than 50 percent over the previous year, and the agency has sought a $1.2 billion bailout from Congress or risks laying off up to 70 percent of its adjudicators.”
“With such a drop in filings, the sheer size of the new filing fees creates a de facto anti-immigrant policy. That policy says, ‘We have made immigration filings really expensive.’ It says to green card holders: apply for naturalization but file only if you can afford it. The filing fee will now be $1,170,” said Rabinowitz. “It says to applicants who want to apply for a green card in the U.S. — known as ‘adjustment of status’— pay $2,270 for each adjustment application, which is more than double the current fees. It says to U.S. employers: seek talented foreign workers for temporary positions where U.S. workers are in short supply, but pay much more per filing depending on the type of filing to be made. With the downward spiral of immigration filings and the USCIS budget based on user funding, there is no assurance that fees won’t increase again and soon.”
It is up to Congress to restructure immigration filing fees so that fees do not become beyond the ability of most applicants to pay.