USCIS Announces Final Rule Adjusting Immigration Benefit Application and Petition Fees

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced today a final rule published in the Federal Register today adjusting the fees required for most immigration applications and petitions. The new fees will be effective Dec. 23, 2016.

According to USCIS:

USCIS is almost entirely funded by the fees paid by applicants and petitioners for immigration benefits. The law requires USCIS to conduct fee reviews every two years to determine the funding levels necessary to administer the nation’s immigration laws, process benefit requests and provide the infrastructure needed to support those activities.

Fees will increase for the first time in six years, by a weighted average of 21 percent for most applications and petitions.   This increase is necessary to recover the full cost of services provided by USCIS. These include the costs associated with fraud detection and national security, customer service and case processing, and providing services without charge to refugee and asylum applicants and to other customers eligible for fee waivers or exemptions.

The final rule contains a table summarizing current and new fees. The new fees are also listed on the Form G-1055, Fee Schedule, and website. Applications and petitions postmarked or filed on or after Dec. 23 must include the new fees or USCIS will not be able to accept them.

“This is our first fee increase since November 2010, and we sincerely appreciate the valuable public input we received as we prepared this final rule,” said USCIS Director León Rodríguez. “We are mindful of the effect fee increases have on many of the customers we serve. That’s why we decided against raising fees as recommended after the fiscal year 2012 and 2014 fee reviews.  However, as an agency dependent upon users’ fees to operate, these changes are now necessary to ensure we can continue to serve our customers effectively.  We will also offer a reduced filing fee for certain naturalization applicants with limited means.”

Changes in the new fee schedule can be found here. Highlights follow:

  • A modest fee increase of $45, or 8 percent, from $595 to $640 for Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
    • USCIS will offer a reduced filing fee of $320 for naturalization applicants with family incomes greater than 150 percent and not more than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. For 2016, this means, for example, that a household of four with an income between $36,000 and $48,600 per year could pay the reduced fee. Those eligible may apply for this option using the new Form I-942, Request for Reduced Fee.
  • The fee for Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship, and N-600K, Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322, will increase from $550 or 600 to $1,170.
  • A new fee of $3,035 is required for Form I-924A, Annual Certification of Regional Center.

In preparing the final rule, USCIS considered all 436 comments received during the 60-day public comment period for the proposed rule published May 4.

More on this report, click here.

Film Recommendation: Buen Dia, Ramon A Charming Film About Illegal Immigration

'Buen Dia Ramon' manages to tell a story we have heard many times, but with nuance and finesse we have rarely seen. (Photo : 20th Century Fox)
‘Buen Dia Ramon’ manages to tell a story we have heard many times, but with nuance and finesse we have rarely seen. (Photo : 20th Century Fox)

“Buen Dia, Ramon” (Good Day, Ramon) is an independent film written and directed by Jorge Ramírez-Suárez. The film is about an ambitious young Mexican travels to Germany to live with his friend’s aunt. However, due to unforeseen circumstances leads Ramon to living on the streets when he cannot find her. He faces a bleak future until he meets Ruth, an 80-year-old retiree, and they develop a close bond. “Buen Dia, Ramon” is arguably one of the finer portrayals of illegal Mexican immigration in recent years. We have seen this subject explored before but never with the subtlety and nuance that Ramírez-Suárez manages to convey in his direction.

The film is currently available on Netflix or for purchase on Vudu, iTunes, Amazon and Google Play. More details on the film’s official website at buendiaramon.com.

With the Immigration Court’s Rocket Docket Many Unrepresented Families Quickly Ordered Deported

Figure 1. Ordered Removed at Initial Master Calendar Hearing
Figure 1. Ordered Removed at Initial Master Calendar Hearing

At the end of September 2016, according to very timely Immigration Court records obtained and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) show that a total of 38,601 cases on the court’s “rocket docket” involving “adults with children” (AWC) have been decided by immigration judges since July of 2014.

Two years ago the Immigration Courts adopted new docketing practices that gave priority to scheduling of these “AWC” cases involving women and children seeking refuge in this country. This followed the Obama Administration’s action seeking to expedite their removal, and was in response to the sudden influx of these families that began during the summer of 2014. This report examines the speed with which these cases have been closed, particularly for families without attorneys to represent them.

According to the case-by-case court data analyzed by TRAC, in 27,015 out of the 38,601 AWC closed cases – or 70 percent — the family was unrepresented. In the remaining 30 percent or 11,586 cases, the individuals had obtained representation.

Court records also show that it was exceedingly rare for an unrepresented family to file the papers in court needed to even seek asylum or other forms of available relief from deportation. Court records indicate that only 1 in 15 (6.5%) managed to do this without formal representation, despite efforts by a variety of initiatives to try to provide various forms of advice to these families short of formal representation. In contrast, applications for relief were filed by those who were represented in 70 percent of the cases.

Further, cases for the 70 percent who were unrepresented were often quickly disposed of. In fact, forty- three percent (43.4%) of unrepresented AWC cases were ordered deported at the initial master calendar hearing. More on this report is available at http://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/441/.

Born In The U.S., Raised In China: ‘Satellite Babies’ Have A Hard Time Coming Home

Nicole Xu for NPR
Nicole Xu for NPR

NPR recently reported  at the phenomenon of “satellite babies.”Anytime you eat at a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, it’s likely that somebody in that restaurant has a child who is in China at the moment,” says Cindy Liu, a psychologist at Harvard University. She points out that no one knows exactly how many Chinese immigrant families send their babies to be raised by family in China.

That’s partly why she helped start a research project focusing on Chinese immigrants in the Boston area who are raising what some psychologists call “satellite babies.” Like satellites in space, these children leave from and return to the same spot. More on the story, click here.

How The Browning Of America Is Upending Both Political Parties

America is undergoing a demographic change — posing unique challenges for both Republicans and Democrats. Malte Mueller/Getty Images/fStop
America is undergoing a demographic change — posing unique challenges for both Republicans and Democrats. Malte Mueller/Getty Images/fStop

Domenico Montanaro of NPR writes that America is at a demographic inflection point. The country is changing — it’s getting browner, as population growth slows among whites. Non-whites now make up a majority of kindergartners; by the next presidential election, the Census Bureau predicts they will be a majority of all children; and by 2044, no one racial group will be a majority of the country.

This shift among white voters is happening at a time when non-white voters are growing at rate never seen before in U.S. history. 2016 could be the first election in which the white vote is at or below 70 percent as a share of the electorate. In 1976, whites made up 89 percent of the electorate, and that held fairly steady until 1992. After that, as Latino and Asian immigration increased, and the black population held steady, the white vote has been set on a steady decline. More on this story, click here.

 

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