Proposed USCIS fee increase will have devastating consequences

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — A new package of dramatic increases in the cost to apply for naturalization, get a green card or renew DACA could have devastating consequences for low-income immigrants.

Proposed increases formally announced in the Federal Register Nov. 14 would also come with the elimination of many fee waivers that currently put immigration benefits within reach of low-income applicants. The dramatic changes were accompanied by a 30-day window for public comment, half the time usually allotted.

“The Trump administration is ratcheting up its attacks on immigrants with proposed changes that go against American values and will hurt vulnerable, low-income populations,” said Anna Gallagher, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. “These proposed fee changes will have destructive consequences on men, women and children seeking asylum, on Dreamers and for immigrants on the path to citizenship. We are deeply disturbed that the administration continues to limit access to the American dream.”

Among the changes proposed:

  • Applications to naturalize will increase from $640 to $1,170, an 83 percent increase.
  • The cost of three applications used to apply for Lawful Permanent Residence and interim benefits will increase to $2,195 from the current $1,225, a 79 percent increase.
  • Renewing DACA, required every two years, will cost $765, up from the current $495, a 55 percent increase.
  • A new $50 fee to apply for asylum. Only three other countries charge asylum applicants to seek protection.

“As harsh as it is to pile such large increases onto applications, it is unconscionable to, at the same time, get rid of many of the fee waivers that make it possible for low-income immigrants to afford to apply,” Gallagher said.

She also decried the administration’s proposal to transfer funds from USCIS fees to enforcement activities by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The fees are collected from immigrants applying for work permits, green cards and other types of status.

“Recent changes in policies have worsened USCIS processing backlogs, already at record levels,” Gallagher said. “Families remain separated for months and sometimes years. This move to transfer much-needed USCIS fees to ICE for heightened enforcement reveals this administration is ignoring what is really needed to make America great.”
CLINIC encourages its network and others concerned about ensuring immigrants have fair access to asylum, naturalization, green cards, DACA and other types of benefits to file comments on the proposed changes before Dec. 16, 2019.