Integrity Legal

21st July 2010

In a recent press release from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) it was announced that a fee waiver form has been proposed in an effort to streamline the process whereby indigent aliens in the USA apply for relief from Immigration fees. To quote the announcement, as promulgated by USCIS and distributed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA):

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has proposed for the first time a standardized fee waiver form in an effort to provide relief for financially disadvantaged individuals seeking immigration benefits…

Apparently, the current version of the fee waiver form is the product of time, research, and study as USCIS has attempted to provide relief to those who cannot pay the government processing fees while still maintaining the integrity of the overall system. To quote the aforementioned announcement further:

The proposed fee waiver form is the product of extensive collaboration with the public. In meetings with stakeholders, USCIS heard concerns that the absence of a standardized fee waiver form led to confusion about the criteria that had to be met as well as the adjudication standards. USCIS worked with stakeholders in developing the fee waiver form that is now posted for comment. “Our goal is to bring clarity and consistency to our processes,” said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas. “We are doing so now in the critical area of providing the financially disadvantaged with access to immigration benefits.”

Mayorkas further stated that the method by which the proposed fee waiver form was devised – through extensive collaboration with the public – will be a hallmark of his approach to improving agency processes. Currently, applicants requesting a fee waiver must do so by submitting an affidavit or unsworn declaration requesting a fee waiver and stating the reasons why he/she is unable to pay the filing fee. The new proposed fee waiver form is designed to verify that an applicant for an immigration benefit is unable to pay the fee for the benefit sought. The proposed form provides clear criteria and an efficient way to collect and process the information.

It is admirable to see USCIS taking an active interest in providing relief to those customers who are truly in need. That said, it remains to be seen how this proposal will be received particularly in light of the fact that USCIS has recently announced shortfalls in its budget. Some feel that providing this type of relief runs counter to the notion of USCIS as a self-funded agency. In any case, this author hopes to see this proposal passed if it increases the probability of providing much needed assistance to those wishing to travel to, or remain in, the United States of America for bona fide reasons.


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