How U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Running Out of Money Could Affect You

Prices increasingThe United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) declared in a letter to Congress that the coronavirus pandemic had caused unavoidable budget shortfalls. USCIS is funded by fees from visa petitions and immigration benefit applications. It estimates that it will run out of money this year. It has asked Congress for an emergency bailout of $1.2 billion.

Along with the request for a bailout, USCIS says it would like to impose a 10% surcharge on all immigration benefits and visa petitions. USCIS has reportedly said that it intends to pay back Congress by keeping this surcharge in place until the $1.2 billion is refunded.

In November 2019, USCIS proposed dramatic increases in fees. These fees would have increased the cost to get a green card by nearly $1,000 and the overall cost to become a citizen by over 60%. The proposal would also have led to the elimination of almost all fee waivers. The proposed fee increase may be an attempt to restrict immigration by putting it out of reach for most low-income immigrants.

Other shifts in priorities have driven up the costs to adjudicate applications for USCIS. Under President Trump, USCIS has transitioned away from its role as an immigration benefits agency. New policies like the “public charge” rule make some immigrants less likely to apply for benefits. At the same time, the agency has begun issuing far more “requests for evidence” than ever, slowing the adjudication process in increasing costs to individual applicants.

President Trump’s restrictive policies on immigration have caused a decrease in revenue. The President’s most recent proclamations coupled with his restrictive immigration policies have made it more difficult for immigrants to obtain immigration benefits.

We urge individuals to contact our office to review immigration options and to file their applications as soon as possible before USCIS proposes additional fees and additional requirements that could increase waiting periods.

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