Integrity Legal

12th Jun 2010

In a recent transcript from a news conference held by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) it was announced that USCIS may be increasing many of the fees associated with US Immigration petitions. The following is a direct quote from the aforementioned news conference transcript:

While we received appropriations from Congress, budget cuts of approximately $160 million have not bridged the remaining gap between costs and anticipated revenue. A fee adjustment, as detailed in the proposed rule, is therefore necessary to address that gap.

Although few seem to doubt the fact that USCIS has experienced a revenue shortfall, many seem to be perturbed by the announcement of fee increases. The following is quoted from the AILA Leadership blog:

Yesterday, due to lower than projected fee revenues, USCIS proposed a fee increase that will amount to an average increase of  10% across the board.  USCIS will issue the formal proposal on Friday and there will be a 45 day comment period.  This, in combination with the 66% fee increase that was implemented in 2007, constitutes a tremendous hit in the pocketbook for a variety of users of immigration services. For example, an I-130 petition for an alien relative will jump from $355 to $420, under this proposal, thus impacting those who want to be reunited with family members.  An I-131 application for a travel document goes up by $55, and an application for an employment authorization document increases by $40.  Adjustment of status fees will increase by $55.  Businesses will also bear some of the brunt, with I-140 petitions for immigrant workers increasing over $100, premium processing going up by $225 and a brand new fee of $6,230 to establish a Regional Center under the EB-5 program. And –perhaps the coup de grace—fees for filing I-290 Notices of Appeal will increase from $585 to $630, a $45 dollar increase that will allow us to continue to file appeals that take over 2 years to adjudicate and generally conclude with either a rubber stamping of the original decision, or as in a handful of recent AAO decisions, a tortured legal analysis resulting in increasingly restrictive interpretations of the law.

The tone of the above quote leaves some readers feeling as though the author is rather upset about the recently proposed fee increase. The following passages from the aforementioned post on the AILA Leadership blog leaves little to the imagination regarding some practitioners feelings with regard to the proposed fee increases:

Why do these fee increases feel like a punch in the stomach to immigration practitioners?  Because they come at a time when the quality of decision-making and the ability to correct even the simplest errors or address basic problems with USCIS are at an all-time low. A small sampling of the problems we have all experienced with alarming increased frequency over the past few years…Application of new extra-regulatory standards in case adjudication…Adjudication of issues not within the province of USCIS…A “pick and choose” attitude with respect to previously issued long-standing agency guidance…Lack of accessibility of agency officials and decision-makers…Lack of predictability in decision-making…Lack of respect for the role of counsel in various proceedings: Examples:  Practitioners report that they are sometimes not copied on RFE’s, and that district offices from time to time have barred attorneys from accompanying their clients to adjustment interviews.

Although USCIS adjudicates cases on an individual basis and no single practitioner can make a generalized statement about USCIS adjudication generally, there appears to be an increasingly common feeling among immigration practitioners that agencies associated with Immigration adjudication are becoming rather unpredictable.

Also of possible interest to those seeking certain family based visas such as the K1 visa and the K3 Visa is the fact that the US Department of State has recently raised the fees associated with such applications when adjudicated by US Consulates abroad. The previous fee for K visa applications was $131, but under the newly promulgated rules the K visa application fee has been raised to $350. Those seeking K3 visas are unlikely to be adversely impacted by the recent fee increase as K3 visa applications are currently being “administratively closed,” in many cases, by the National Visa Center. That said, those seeking a K1 Fiance Visa will likely be required to pay the increased fee in order to have their K1 visa application adjudicated.

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3 Responses to “USCIS Proposes Fee Increases on the Heels of Recently Enacted DOS Fee Increase”

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