A federal judge has temporarily halted the implementation of upcoming fee increases by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday blocking new rules from USCIS that would have significantly raised costs on certain immigration and naturalization applications.
The fee hikes were set to take effect Oct. 2.
“Plaintiffs persuasively argue that the public interest would be served by enjoining or staying the effective date of the Final Rule because if it takes effect, it will prevent vulnerable and low-income applicants from applying for immigration benefits, will block access to humanitarian protections, and will expose those populations to further danger,” White wrote in a 35 page decision.
He continued: “Plaintiffs also cite comments and research that argue the public at large would be harmed if the Final Rule goes into effect because it will negatively impact tax revenues and would delay individuals seeking to naturalize from participating in essential civic activities like voting, service in public office, and jury service. Defendants do not counter those arguments.”
Details about USCIS fee increases
The new rules from USCIS would have raised costs of immigration petitions by a weighted average of 20 percent across the board, according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association. They also would have adjusted the requirements for fee waivers and eliminated multiple fee exemptions.
Furthermore, the new rules were set to raise the fee on the application for naturalization (Form N-400 paper filing) from $640 to $1,170, an increase of 83 percent while also adding additional fees for adjustment of status applications.
Along with the fee increases, the planned USCIS rules also would have introduced new forms for certain applications and separated the Form I-129 petition for nonimmigrant workers into multiple visa-specific categories.
Premium processing and Asylum fee
The new rules from USCIS were set to extend the maximum allowable time for premium processing from 15 calendar days to 15 business days, while leaving the fee unchanged at $1,440. “Business days” do not include weekends, federally observed holidays or any other day that federal office buildings are closed.
Additionally, the new rules included a $50 charge for asylum applications (Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal), which would have made the United States just the fourth country in the world to require asylum seekers to pay a fee, joining Australia, Fiji and Iran, as noted by CBS News.
The preliminary injunction issued by White took effect immediately and will remain in place “pending final adjudication” of the matter. The government could also appeal the ruling.
USCIS has not yet issued a formal statement regarding the impact of White’s ruling on anticipated new form editions and premium processing timelines.
Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm continues to monitor the situation closely and will alert clients as the situation evolves.