July 31, 2020 Roundup

The USCIS is raising fees for a range of immigration applications. Set to be published in the federal register on Monday, the new fees will take effect on October 2. Approximately, 97% of USCIS’ budget is funded by application fees. This fee increase should not be surprising since USCIS is running out of operating income.

One big increase is the fee for work permits and citizenship. The current fee for a work permit is $410.00 and new fee will be $550.00, a $140.00 increase. The naturalization application will increase from the current $640.00 to $1160.00 or $1170.00 depending if its paper filing or online filing. (See uscis.gov for the memo regarding the fee schedule or the AILA page at https://www.aila.org/advo-media/issues/all/changes-to-uscis-fee-schedule ).

The second news pertains to the recent public charge provisions that the Trump Administration announced sometime ago that went into effect in February of 2020. The new previsions gave USCIS more reasons to utilize the “public charge” grounds to deny immigration benefits. The applicant had to complete a lengthy form with with extremely intrusive questions and requirements, i.e., to a point of asking the immigrant to provide a credit score and and a credit report.

After the provisions became effective, a law suit followed, and on July 29, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued an order preventing the immigration service from enforcing, applying, implementing, or treating as effective the “inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds Final Rule for any period during which there is a declared national health emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. (84 FR 41292, Aug. 14, 2019, final rule; as amended by 84 FR 52357, Oct. 2, 2019, final rule correction).”

This means that applicants applying for immigration benefits after July 29, 2020, do not have to attach the new financial declaration form and do not have to provide information about the receipt of public benefits. The USCIS will use the previous provisions that were kinder to individuals who had received public assistance or were not in the best financial position.

Lastly, as a reminder, the Los Angeles area immigration courts will remain closed until August 17, 2020. It is possible this date will be further pushed back depending on the COIVD numbers. The local immigration offices are technically open but visitation is very limited. Individuals who have to do immigration “check-ins” have to go but likely they will not be seen in-person but will have to fill out a form with their information, and the officer in charge will call them to discuss the issues.