As previously reported in our 11/11/2019 immigration alert, on 11/14/2019 the USCIS published a proposed fee schedule and there is now a 30-day comment period.
To submit a comment, please read through to the end of this alert.
The proposed rule would force USCIS customers to pay more for less. USCIS is proposing a 21% overall fee hike without offering evidence that this increase will reverse the ongoing deterioration of the agency's services. In fact, the rule would further weaken USCIS's case processing standards. If implemented, families, asylees and American businesses would face the dual burden of increased fees and decreased services.
The proposed fee hikes, coupled with the elimination of vital fee waivers, would price many individuals and families out of our legal immigration system. If the rule is implemented, application fees for green cards, along with associated work and travel authorization, would surge by 79%, and applications for citizenship would increase by 83%. The rule would also significantly raise fees for DACA renewal requests. Taken together, these changes constitute yet another brick in the "invisible wall" restricting legal immigration.
USCIS should rescind its inefficient policies rather than ratchet up fees to subsidize them. In recent years, USCIS's own inefficient policies, including significant increases in RFEs, have become core drivers of its crisis-level processing delays. Now the agency is proposing higher fees to fund their continued inefficiency. To fix the backlog, the agency should start by ending bad policies - not by raising fees to underwrite them.
The rule's proposed transfer of over $200 million in USCIS filing fees to ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) defies the agency's service-oriented statutory mandate. Congress created USCIS to function as a service-oriented immigration benefits agency, distinct from the immigration enforcement missions of ICE and CBP (Customs & Border Protection). Yet the proposed transfer of funds to ICE for enforcement purposes makes clear that USCIS is prioritizing ICE's work over its own.
Though the rule seeks to justify its fee increases in part by citing a need for more staffing, in recent years, the rate of new applications and petitions filed with USCIS has declined appreciably and the agency diverted hundreds of its employees to perform enforcement work for ICE and CBP rather than having them adjudicate applications as they are supposed to.
The proposed rule is bad for business. Among other harmful changes, the rule relaxes the premium processing deadline from 15 calendar days to 15 business days, which will result in slower adjudications at higher prices, and as a consequence, slower hiring for American businesses.
Further, consistent with longstanding practice, USCIS should also extend the comment period for the proposed rule from 30 to 60 days.
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