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Immigration rights network urges Biden admin not to move forward with proposed fee hikes

MUMBAI: The National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), a network of 60 immigrant rights organizations across 40 states in the US, has urged the Biden administration to reject the proposed regulations relating to fee-hikes for a variety of immigration benefits – be it employment or family visas or even obtaining employment authorisation permits.
If this revision goes into effect, it will disproportionately impact low-income and working communities seeking green cards or family reunions through non-immigrant petitions and employment-related visas, said NPNA. It urged individuals and organizations to comments against the proposed rule during the 60 day open period.

“Citizenship and other immigration benefits remain out of reach for so many lower-income individuals that even nominal fee increases will exacerbate current disparities in access,” said Nicole Melaku, Executive Director of NPNA. “This rule, if implemented, will price out eligible low-income and working-class families from green cards, deepen the cost of citizenship by 19% and make it more difficult to reunite with family members abroad.”
TOI had exhaustively covered details of the fee hike. For instance, the application for obtaining US citizenship is proposed to be hiked from $640 to $760 by 19%. The application to adjust to green card status (with biometric services) is set to rise by 26% to $1,540.
A previous fee-raising regulation by the Trump administration was blocked by a federal court just days before it was set to go into effect in October 2020 (after being proposed in November 2019).
At the same time, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is heavily dependent on such fees, for its operations.
In 2020, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic led to a dramatic reduction in receipts of new applications, resulting in a temporary drop in revenue by 40 percent. The combination of depleted cash reserves, a temporary hiring freeze, and workforce attrition has reduced the agency’s capacity to timely adjudicate cases, particularly as incoming caseloads rebound to pre-pandemic levels. Increasing demand for low- or no-fee humanitarian programs has added to these fiscal challenges. The fee-hike proposal preserves existing fee waiver eligibility for low-income and vulnerable populations and adds new fee exemptions for certain humanitarian programs, states USCIS.
Ur M Jaddou, director USCIS said. “This proposed rule allows USCIS to more fully recover operating costs for the first time in six years and will support the Administration’s effort to rebuild the legal immigration system.”



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