The United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced changes to its fees on July 31, 2020. It also announced that, in addition to the changes in the fee structure, there would be changes in the way in which USCIS applications were processed. The fee increase will be taking effect on October 2, 2020. The changes include a weighted fee increase, which averages 20%, and changes to several forms, including employment authorization applications. Any filings postmarked from October 2, 2020, onwards will be more expensive, and the new forms will be required. U.S. employers and applicants for immigration benefits should file their applications before this date as there will be a significant impact on the likelihood of applications being approved and the number of people who can even afford to apply once the changes come into effect.

Essentially this means that fees for businesses, new citizens, and international students who need work authorization will be paying more for their applications and petitions. The Trump administration will have furthered its objective of restricting immigration because these new fees and processes will make it very difficult for people who want to become citizens and for businesses seeking to employ skilled workers from outside the USA.

What Is the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Fee? The United States Citizen and Immigration Services fee is the fee paid to apply to become a citizen of the United States of America or to immigrate to the United States of America, or both. It covers the overhead and adjudication costs of the agency and biometric services.

USCIS is offering a reduction of $10 on filing fees for specific applications being submitted online. These applications include renewals of permanent resident cards—green cards—and naturalization applications.

Immigrant Visa processes for all category types will be impacted, as well. Most fees for employment-based processes increase, but the employment-based immigrant visa petition fees decrease by 21%.

The longstanding practice of bundling fees will end. Currently, while the Adjustment of Status is pending, the application fee of $1,250 includes the Employment Authorization Document (EAD), Advanced Parole (A.P.) applications, and the biometrics fee. Under the new rule, the adjustment of the status application increases to $2,270, and additional costs will need to be paid for the EAD ($550) and A.P. ($590) renewal applications.

Applicants under the age of 14 will no longer benefit when applying with a parent. Instead of a reduced fee of $750, the applicants will be required to pay a fee of $1,130.

What about applying for Asylum? The United States Citizen and Immigration Service will, with the new rule, be one of the few countries to charge someone for applying for asylum ($50). Asylum seekers will also now have to pay $490 for an Employment Authorization Document. These fees are one of the policy changes that are designed to discourage individuals from seeking asylum in the United States of America.

Who Will Be Impacted? Businesses, new citizens, and students are the people who will be most impacted by the changes in the USCIS fees and processes.  It will be challenging for companies wanting to employ skilled workers, people who want to be American citizens or seek asylum, and students who wish to study at an American educational institution.

What Does This Mean in Practicality? The new fee and processing rules will make it very difficult for anyone to immigrate to America due to the increased fees. The ‘unbundling’ of immigration fees almost double the current cost of immigration and restricts applicants to those who can afford the new fees. Processing times will also increase, making the time it takes to become an American citizen much longer. The new rules will impact heavily on the hundreds of thousands of green card holders who will not be able to become full citizens and will not be able to vote in the next elections.

The new USCIS rule is receiving much criticism for over-burdening lawful permanent residents financially amid a significant economic downturn as well as depriving them of gaining full U.S. citizenship and, as such, depriving them of the right to vote.

According to research by the Pew Centre, over 23 million U.S.immigrants, making up 10% of the electorate, will be eligible to vote in 2020. Immigration activists believe that the increases are more to reduce these numbers and suppress voters than to cover the USCIS’s bloated salary bill.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association, along with the Sidley Austin law firm, filed a lawsuit against the USCIS on behalf of a coalition is leading immigrant’s rights associations seeking a nationwide emergency injunction against the new rule.

However, it would be wise for anyone making applications of any kind to do so as soon as possible before the rule comes into effect on October 2, 2020.

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