Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘USCIS fees’

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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12th June 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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