Important USCIS updates for this week
US IMMIGRATION NOTES - Atty. Marco F.G. Tomakin (The Freeman) - August 2, 2020 - 12:00am

Just this week, USCIS issued two very important updates that affect immigrants coming to the US and those who are planning to file for petitions or applications.

1.) USCIS has announced that for applications and petitions postmarked on or after July 29, 2020, Form I-944 is no longer required. This form was recently required by USCIS for those applicants for green card or extension or change of non-immigrant status in order to show proof of self-sufficiency. However, on July 29, 2020, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York in the case of State of New York, et al vs. DHS and make the Road NY et al vs. Cuccinelli, et al, enjoined the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from enforcing, applying, implementing, or treating as effective the inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds Final Rule for any period during which there is a declared national health emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. As long as this decision is in effect, USCIS will apply the public charge rule based on an old guidance that was in place before this Public Charge Rule was implemented on February 24, 2020. Thus, if one is applying for a green card, he does not have to include Form I-944.

2.) On July 31, 2020, USCIS has announced that it is adjusting its fees for certain immigration and naturalization applications and petitions to ensure that it meets its operational needs. As you may know, USCIS operations are sustained by the fees it generates from the services it renders. It has determined that in order to keep its doors open, it has to raise its fees by 20%. As its reasoning released through its Deputy Director for Policy, "these overdue adjustments in fees are necessary to efficiently and fairly administer our nation's lawful immigration system, secure the homeland and protect Americans." This new rule covers costs associated with benefit request adjudications, detect and deter immigration fraud, and thoroughly vet applicants, petitioners, and beneficiaries. It is also used to be used to support payroll, technology, and operations to accomplish the USCIS mission. The new rule removes certain fee exemptions, includes new nominal fees for asylum applicants and reduces fee waivers to help recover the costs of adjudication. Also, it provides a reduction of $10 in the fee for those who file electronically available forms via online filing at USCIS. This fee increase is effective October 2, 2020.

Personally, I am foreseeing that this new rule on fee increase will be challenged in court as this is very burdensome, being implemented amidst the pandemic when everyone is struggling financially as well as having difficulties with procuring supporting evidence for a petition and application due to the restrictions imposed by governments around the world related to COVID-19.

But better err on the safe side; file your petitions and applications as soon as possible so as to avoid the increase. Make sure to check the USCIS website for the updated fee.

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