US Immigration Fees Increasing by $500

Fee increases for visas and other changes have been steadily introduced over the last few years under Trump and now the cost of online naturalization applications rocket from $640 to $1,160, rising by $500.

In addition to this, asylum seekers wishing to enter the US must pay $50, the first time that asylum seekers have been required to pay a fee. The new fees are set to be implemented from 2 October 2020 and USCIS have advised that the fees are to help their budget in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic when the USCIS offices had to close and furlough large numbers of staff.

COVID-19 Pandemic has Affected USCIS Revenue

Without the usual processing of different immigration applications, the USCIS have been financially impacted very heavily, so they are trying to recoup some of the lost revenue by applying fee increases. Around 97% of the USCIS budget comes from application fees, so whilst the pandemic put applications on hold for such a long period, there was very limited revenue from other sources.

Joseph Edlow from the USCIS stated: "These overdue adjustments in fees are necessary to efficiently and fairly administer our nation's lawful immigration system, secure the homeland and protect Americans."

However, Doug Rand questioned the true rationale behind the decision to increase fees by saying: "This is a flagrant, unapologetic effort to reduce immigration and new American citizenship by pricing people out."

USCIS Asking Congress for Bailout

Whilst these announcements have been made, USCIS has asked Congress for a $1.2 billion sum that they would eventually pay back, with the funds coming from charging a 10% surcharge on applications.

There is also talk that the revenue problems that the USCIS have suffered and partly down to some of the immigration measures that Trump had put in place, so Trump opposition are claiming that the pandemic is being used to make immigration harder and to also hide the reason behind USCIS budget issues.

USCIS Revenue Continues to be Affected by Pandemic

With the pandemic still causing severe consequences in the US, with many parts of the country hit with large numbers of cases of Coronavirus, it could be some time before the USCIS gets any way near to operating as usual and therefore the finances would be impacted for some time. It is expected that around 70% of the USCIS workers will be furloughed at the end of August if the bailout from Congress is not granted.

Another topic of conversation is that the fee increase for petitions from green card holders to become US citizens will prevent people from being eligible to vote, which some claim is another backhand tactic from Trump’s administration. The US will become one of only four countries in the world which will charge a fee to asylum seekers, joining Fiji, Iran and Australia. Applications for work permits will also be increasing by 34%, which will also affect asylum seekers trying to get employment in the US, on top of the asylum petition fee.

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