ASISTA stridently opposes the proposed fee rule published in the Federal Register yesterday as it further advances the Administration’s callous agenda to create significant barriers to equal access to immigration relief. The new proposed rule makes sweeping changes, including but not limited to:
I. Fee Increases
- An increase in fees for N-400 naturalization application, from $640 to $1,170 (83% increase)
- An increase in fees for I-929: Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U–1 Nonimmigrant, $230 to $1515 (an increase of 559%).
- An increase in fees for I-485: Application for Adjustment of Status
- A new fee for affirmative asylum applications and increase in fees for DACA renewal requests.
II. Elimination of Fee Waivers for Many Applications
The new rule also calls for the elimination of fee waivers for many applications including N-400, I-90, I-765, I-485 and I-751; however, fee waivers for forms related to VAWA self-petitioners (including I-751 waivers based on domestic violence and VAWA cancellation), U visa and T visa applications, battered spouses of certain nonimmigrant visa holders under INA §106, and Temporary Protected Status (TPS)are statutorily mandated by Congress and cannot be eliminated by agency action.**
Even before this new fee rule was published, USCIS had taken action to limit the criteria to determine fee waiver eligibility through its revisions to the I-912 fee waiver form and corresponding guidance, which will create significant barriers for immigrants, including survivors of violence. While those changes are currently being challenged through litigation efforts, the new proposed fee rule published yesterday further limits the criteria for fee waivers, as those seeking fee waivers based on the federal poverty guidelines will now need to demonstrate that they earn less than 125% of the federal poverty guidelines, rather than the current level of 150%. The proposed rule also eliminates the financial hardship criteria for fee waivers.
III. Transferring Funds to ICE
In addition, the new fee rule calls for over $200 million to be transferred to ICE, citing their role in investigating and enforcing laws related to potential immigration fraud. It is unconscionable that immigrants applying for immigration benefits should shoulder the financial burden of transforming USCIS into a third enforcement arm of DHS.
TIME TO TAKE ACTION
While there have been advocacy efforts to seek an extension, the deadline for comment on this significant proposed rule is December 16, 2019.In the upcoming days, ASISTA will be sending out template comments and sharing additional resources for organizations that serve immigrant survivors of domestic and sexual violence to voice their strong opposition to this new rule. We will also be posting updates on ASISTA’s Fee Waiver Advocacy Page.
For more information on the new proposed rule, [click here] for a factsheet developed by NALEO. For additional background on the proposed fee schedule, from CLINIC [click here]. For further questions on this proposed rule, contact ASISTA at email@example.com
** For example, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, specifically stated that DHS shall permit applicants to apply for a waiver of any fees associated with filing a VAWA self-petition, a T or U visa application, or an application for VAWA cancellation or suspension of deportation.