In May 2020, USCIS announced its immediate plan to implement a 10 percent surcharge on all applications. You may be wondering why the USCIS is increasing its filing fees, and the reason is that USCIS revenue is entirely dependent on filing fees associated with USCIS applications or petitions without taxpayer money support. Recently the number of new applications being filed has drastically declined, and that has led to USCIS asking Congress for a $1.2 billion bailout to compensate for the decline.
Multiple factors have contributed to the drastic decline of USCIS applications. Many potential applicants are discouraged to apply because they are financially struggling. The government stimulus checks are unfortunately unable to compensate job loss and unemployment exacerbated by the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Another factor has been the fact that the necessary government offices are closed. For example, many couples have been unable to get married due to courthouse closures. Before COVID 19, in-person application is required to apply for a marriage license; few countries offered an online option for this process. Even if you managed to apply for a marriage license and have a wedding ceremony, it would take more time to obtain a marriage certificate.
Furthermore, travel restrictions by the United States and foreign countries have reduced the number of newcomers to the United States. There is, unfortunately, a plethora of reasons that have contributed to this decline. First, the U.S. State Department suspended routine visa services for non-U.S. citizens due to COVID-19. Second, the President expanded on his Muslim Travel Ban 3 with an April 2020 Presidential Proclamation that further limited legal immigration into the United States. Finally, additional travel restrictions will be announced to ban nonimmigrant visas that offer employment authorization.
These restrictions on newcomers have been coupled with the Trump administration’s tough immigration stance that has made it very difficult to even submit applications. For instance, asylum processing at the southern border has practically halted. USCIS has also recently rejected I-485 applications due to lack of I-944 Public Charge or I-864 Affidavit of Support forms even though the completed forms were included with the applications.
The harsh government stance has previously forced USCIS to announce major filing fee hikes. In November 2019, USCIS announced the following fee schedule changes citing the expected funding shortage. N400 Naturalization application fee would see the most increase as it would go up by 62% from $725 to $1170. Marriage-based green card case fees would go up by $56% from $1760 to $2750. Although a biometrics fee was removed, filing an I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and I-131 Application for Travel Document would cost $1075 more. USCIS has not implemented the proposed fee hikes yet, but public comment periods ended in February 2020.
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This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice.
Written by Francis Law Center Staff Andrew Lee