No Furlough, Higher Fees & Other USCIS Updates

Since virtually the first day the Trump administration took office, the immigration system has been in a constant state of change. DACA was repealed, legal immigration in the form of employment visas was severely limited, the rules for asylum were changed, TPS benefits were withdrawn and reinstated for at-risk immigrant residents, and dozens of other big and small changes have taken place since January 2017. 

In that time, USCIS has strayed from its original mission as a service provider, and in many cases, USCIS has made it harder for immigrants to follow the law. Today, we’ll be covering a few of the latest changes USCIS has made to its policies.

TPS Beneficiaries No Longer Able to Switch Status to Get Green Cards

USCIS has updated its policies so that TPS beneficiaries who leave the United States will maintain the exact same immigration status upon return. This closes a legal path to permanent residency that TPS holders could once access. 

Before this change, TPS beneficiaries who had a US citizen spouse or adult child could obtain advanced parole and leave the US temporarily. Upon their return, beneficiaries were reclassified as “applicants for admission,” which meant they could adjust their status from “TPS holder” to “immediate relative,” allowing them to get a green card. 

The policy change has already been challenged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. They’re challenging it on the basis of the Administrative Procedures Act, which is the law that was used to defeat the repeal of DACA.

USCIS Will Raise Fees on October 2nd

A new rule published in August will take effect on October 2nd. The effect of the rule will increase fees for certain immigration and naturalization benefits and remove certain fee waivers and fee exemptions. Overall, the rule raises USCIS fees by 20% on average. The new rule contradicts the previous USCIS position, which was to provide “reasonable” filing fees for certain applications to ensure cost was not a barrier to benefits.

In other words, the USCIS has made it far more expensive to maintain legal status.

Fee changes include:

  • Restoring DACA fees to $410 for employment authorization 
  • Limited the fee waiver income requirement from 150% of poverty line to 125%
  • Raises filing fees for adjustment of status for children under 14 to $1,130
  • Requires separate fees for I-765 ($550) and I-131 ($590) when filed in connection with adjustment of status
  • Lowers fee for filing online to $10 below paper filing

If you’re concerned about fee changes for an application filed after October 2, speak with your immigration attorney to learn if this rule change affects you. 

USCIS Cancels Furlough of 13,000 Workers

Thanks to pressure from both sides of Congress, USCIS will not be furloughing over 70% of its workforce like it had originally planned earlier this year. However, agency officials warned that backlogs and wait times would continue to lengthen. Our immigration firm has reported at length about the backlog crisis at the USCIS, a crisis that only began after the Trump administration took office. 

While the fee increases mentioned earlier have helped address the agency’s financial bind, USCIS denies that the financial crisis was the reason for the fee changes. They maintain that the agency will require Congress to inject funds into the USCIS to stave off a future furlough. 

If you have questions about your immigration application or legal matter, speak with our New Jersey immigration law office in a confidential consultation. Call (800) 909-8129 today.