The Trump administration has proposed a new rate hike for immigrants that are likely unable to afford them. These fee increases include a charge for immigrants that are seeking refuge in the United States, which is the first time the country will have ever had such a policy. Any changes would affect existing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations, which handle immigration benefits.
The proposal includes a $50 application fee for affirmative asylum. These asylum seekers are already in the country but are still claiming asylum status. If passed, the United States could become one of only four countries that require asylum-seeking application fees. Currently, Australia, Fiji and Iran are the three other countries with such a requirement.
Furthermore, for all asylum seekers, whether they are already in the country or not, there would be a $490 work permit fee. Although there is currently a $750 fee for citizenship petitions, that would increase to $1,170 under the new proposal. For certain immigrants, that amount would be even higher.
Additionally, DACA recipients would have to pay $765 to continue receiving benefits, which includes protection from deportation. Right now, that fee is only $495. Anyone filing for a U-visa will also have to pay $1,415 to do so. Although there is a fee currently, it is less than half of that at $585. These visas are for individuals that have been the victim of a crime and assist the government with their investigation.
Proponents argue the added fees will restrict applications to those who need asylum the most. For these individuals, they argue, the potential for asylum outweighs any economic costs. Others, however, point out these changes may pose unfair barriers for asylum seekers and resident immigrants.
“The new fees will make it more difficult for individuals that wish to immigrate or change their status and cannot afford to do so,” says immigration attorney Mario Godoy of Godoy Law Office. “For this reason, it is crucial that anyone who has issues with their immigration status should try to obtain it or change it as soon as possible.”
The proposal has not yet been officially made law. It has, however, been published in the Federal Register — which means it was open for public comments for a one month period until December 30, 2019. As such, it is one step closer to becoming law and but still has not passed.
If these changes pass, a portion of the fee revenue would partially support the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These funds would be used to crack down on immigration fraud, visa overstays, and worksite enforcement within the United States.
Ultimately, these new rules may challenge existing immigration rights and lead to contested immigration law cases. If these measures pass, immigrants may be forced to fight for their rights in the courtroom.
Anyone wishing to change their immigration status should speak to an immigration lawyer that can help them move through the process quickly, so they are only subject to the current rules and fees. It could take months before the new fees become law, but the immigration process can also be very long, which is why it is crucial people speak to an attorney as soon as they can.