In true Trumpian manner, big immigration news was dropped again on Friday night (Nov 8, 2019). This time, USCIS is hiking it’s fees. Most proposed fees are almost double the current amounts. For example, N400 citizenship application fees will increase to $1170 (up from $640). Asylum applicants will have to pay a fee for the first time in history. And a large chunk of the money will be earmarked for ICE. USCIS is a fees based agency. ICE is NOT. Therefore, this is absolutely outrageous- that the administration is finding ways to constrict immigration in ever more creative ways, weaponizing the very tools that are used to receive the immigration benefits sought.
We will be sharing more thoughts in the coming days. The rule is 314 pages. While an unpublished version is available in the below link, the official publication date is 11/14/2019. The comment period is 30 days. Thus, all comments must be submitted by 12/13/2019. I urge all our readers to post comments to not increase USCIS fees.
Here is a copy of USCIS’s notice.
WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security will publish a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register to adjust the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Immigration Examinations Fee Account fee schedule.
Fees collected and deposited into the IEFA fund nearly 96% of USCIS’ budget. 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, adjudicating applications and petitions, and providing the necessary infrastructure to support those activities.
“USCIS is required to examine incoming and outgoing expenditures, just like a business, and make adjustments based on that analysis. This proposed adjustment in fees would ensure more applicants cover the true cost of their applications and minimizes subsidies from an already over-extended system,” said Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of USCIS. “Furthermore, the adjudication of immigration applications and petitions requires in-depth screening, incurring costs that must be covered by the agency, and this proposal accounts for our operational needs and better aligns our fee schedule with the costs of processing each request.”
The rule proposes adjusting USCIS IEFA fee schedules by a weighted average increase of 21% to ensure full cost recovery. Current fees would leave the agency underfunded by approximately $1.3 billion per year.
The proposed fee rule accounts for increased costs to adjudicate immigration benefit requests, detect and deter immigration fraud, and thoroughly vet applicants, petitioners, and beneficiaries.
USCIS last updated its fee structure in FY 2017, by a weighted average increase of 21%.