Proposed USCIS Fee Increases Are Unequitable and Unjust

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, announced yesterday, Jan. 3, 2023, that it is proposing fee increases which will cause disproportionate harm to low-income individuals and families seeking immigration benefits.  

“The proposed fee increases — some of which are drastic — are of great concern,” said Anna Gallagher, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC. “CLINIC comprises the nation’s largest network of law organizations serving low-income immigrants. We understand firsthand the unnecessary financial stress these changes will place on our immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters in need.”  

“CLINIC is particularly concerned that USCIS is proposing to significantly increase fees to apply for lawful permanent residence, to petition to remove conditions on residence, and for nonimmigrant status for religious workers,” said Karen Sullivan, CLINIC’s director of advocacy. “Applications for lawful permanent residence would increase anywhere from 26% to 130%, depending on the details of the application, and petitions to remove conditions from residence would increase 76%. These are increases that would have serious consequences for low-income immigrants.” 

CLINIC is equally worried about the hardship the proposed fee increases would place on foreign-born religious workers, as fees for religious worker visas would increase by 86%. “Religious workers already face numerous hurdles to gaining the immigration benefits they need to provide critical services for U.S. communities,” said Miguel Naranjo, director of Religious Immigration Services at CLINIC. “These significant fee increases are another unjust roadblock for foreign-born religious workers who often perform charitable or public service work and whose sponsors struggle to support their immigration processes.”  

USCIS is also proposing changes to its policies to eliminate the reduced fee to apply for permanent residence for a child, which will raise financial barriers for families applying together. Another proposed policy change would charge higher fees to those applying for status using paper applications rather than online applications. Those without access to private and reliable computers and internet connections would be further disadvantaged under this rule.  

CLINIC is grateful that the proposed fee schedule maintains fee exemptions for humanitarian applications as well as opportunities for fee waivers for qualifying applicants.  

“While we understand that USCIS is in a place of financial concern, we implore the agency to find a solution that does not pass along undue hardship to low-income immigrants,” said Gallagher. 

There is a 60-day comment period for this proposed rule. CLINIC and its Affiliate organizations will compile formal comments to capture our concerns and hopes for the final rule.