November 9, 2019

As usual, DHS dropped a big fat piece of bad news, namely its proposed new filing fee schedule, after 5pm on a Friday night. The higher fees, as always, will not actually reduce processing times, improve the quality of adjudications, nor make USCIS train & hire more or better staff. It will just impoverish people seeking visas and green cards, and their US employers and family members. Some parts of the new fee schedule are especially repugnant – removing fee-free adjudication of the applications for temporary work & travel authorization that accompany an application for permanent residence, charging a fee for affirmative asylum applications, charging a fee for asylees and refuges to apply for work authorization, and removing the reduced fees for adjustment of status by children under 14 and certain applicants for naturalization, among others.

*The near-doubling of the naturalization fee, and concurrent elimination of fee waivers, is a clear attempt at deterring qualified permanent residents from becoming US citizens, and has the obvious effect of voter-suppression.

*Charging fees for concurrent I-765 applications for Employment Authorization Documents and I-131 applications for Advance Parole travel documents filed with I-485 Adjustment of Status applications not only raises the cost of adjustment to an exorbitant level (and undermines the claim that DHS really wants new immigrants to become self-sufficient), but it also creates a perverse incentive to delay adjudications of both the ancillary benefits and the I-485 itself, so that applicants will have to pay, and pay again to renew their EAD & Advance Parole benefits, and backlogs will mushroom to ever-longer queues. This fee structure must be tied to a return to mandatory 90-day adjudications for EAD & AP applications filed with an I-485 application, otherwise the Service is merely rewarding its own inefficiency, paying itself a bonus for being slow and creating churn.

*Charging an application fee for the I-589, and charging full I-765 application fees for asylees and refugees, who leave their native lands in haste and danger, usually with nothing but the clothes on their backs, is a human-rights abomination and an affront to any pretense of moral leadership. It puts the United States in the unsavory company of Iran, Fiji & Australia, all of which have shameful track records with respect to their treatment of asylum-seekers and refugees.

Also included is a slap in the face to US employers who will be paying the higher fees: the rule proposes changing the guarantee of Premium processing from initial review within 15 calendar days of receipt, to 15 business days – “We’d like you pay us more money for slower service.”

Despite the announcement on a Friday night, the notice would not be published in the Federal Register until the following Thursday.