Yesterday was the last day to comment on proposed rules to increase USCIS fees. It’s really by design that such an important comment period falls smack in the middle of the holiday period. I hope at least some of you were able to get your comments in. Having read most of the rule at this point, I wanted to give you some highlights that you wouldn’t necessarily read in other summaries. Note that these observations will likely not be in the news articles you have read and I have not mentioned all the changes esp. those reported in news media:
- In my opinion, the whole fee increase is designed to give money to ICE. Even though the rules state that it is taking longer to adjudicate cases, and that some cases are a complete financial loss for the agency (like asylum), it is clear that that is a primary reason. If one doesn’t know about USCIS’s ulterior motives, one might think the reasons given for each fee increase explanation is not unreasonable. But we know better.
- What I also note from the rule that Operation Janus was mentioned and that it makes me believe denaturalization will be a bigger issue in the near future.
- The rule also justifies transfer of funds to ICE by explaining that ICE and USCIS work in partnership. I can just see how the administration will pit this argument if there is litigation. But also remember, the NTA memo hasn’t been fully implemented yet. It is lurking out there and funding ICE paves the way to fully implement the NTA memo.
- The $30 dishonored check fee will be eliminated. USCIS will just reject cases. Apparently, it costs too much money to process the $30 check.
- Premium processing will change from 15 calendar days to 15 business days.
- Biometrics fees will not be a separate item anymore but will be included in the fee for whatever form you are filing.
- I-485 fees will be the same for adults and kids.
- I-131, I-131A and I-765 will all have separate fees no matter what you file.
- DACA applicants will have to pay for the I-821D. There is a lot of discussion about pending litigation. Reminder that DACA hangs in the balance at the moment and SCOTUS is expected to make a decision by June. Funding ICE may not be a coincidence.
- Naturalization application fees will go up 83%!
- No fee waiver- except for very narrow circumstances.
- No fee waiver if you have a sponsor for your case.
- Every asylum case will have a fee of $50. The rule says that this is for USCIS and not EOIR, so think it I means filing at court may not still have a cost. If that is the case, it is likely that a rule is being drafted for EOIR as we speak.
- Also, the rule does mention the 1951 Convention and makes an attempt to justify by comparing to other countries. Guess what 3 countries charge a fee for asylum- Fiji and Iran. And Australia. The United States is using Fiji and Iran as examples!
- Asylum seekers will have to pay the I-765 fee also.
- For us business lawyers:
- All I-129 forms will be redesigned to be specific for visa categories- I-129H1b, I-129L, I-1290 etc. The supplemental questions will be incorporated into the forms and thus the fees will be set accordingly. I can imagine that the forms will not be redesigned for the better.
- In most visa categories, the fees will more than double.
- Site visits for L, H and Rs are mentioned in the rule.
There’s just so much in these 314 pages. I had initially thought that the govt. would turn around and implement the rules without taking comments into account (which they have done before). But having read the rules, and seeing the changes needed to the I-129 forms esp. I think it will not be as immediate. But we know this administration pushes things fast when it wants. So, we should be on notice that these changes could happen before the H1b season kicks so the govt. can charge extra for the cap season.
I anticipate 2020 to be a difficult immigration year- policy changes that will go into effect, US Supreme Court and other decisions pending such as DACA and ‘public charge’, but also election rhetoric and fear mongering will play a part. Stay in touch with us, sign up to our blog, share our blog and follow us on social media. Contact us if you have questions. In addition to working hard for our clients, we are working in collaboration with WIDEN, AILA WA and many other organizations in leading the efforts regarding ongoing community needs.
Warm wishes for a good start to 2020!
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