Injunction Issued to Prevent Increase in Visa Fees

On September 29, a stay on the August 2020 final rule was implemented, which would have increased fees for several visa categories. The final rule required new versions of several forms. New fees and forms that were supposed to be implemented are now on hold. The rule would have had a wide-reaching impact on businesses, international students, and new citizens. The rule was aimed at lowering income thresholds to qualify for fee waivers, eliminating subsidies for applications, and eliminating food stamps for most people, except those who were victims of domestic violence or human trafficking.

The August 2020 final rule significantly increased the fees for certain immigration and naturalization benefits. This rule was supposed to be implemented on October 2 and required payments of increased fees and revised versions of Forms I-129, I-765, and Forms N-600/N-600A. This rule also removed fee waivers for certain visas, changed fee waiver requirements, altered premium processing time limits, and modified intercountry adoption processes.

Cases Pending in Court

The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project is challenging this rule. Another case that has bearing on this issue is Casa de Maryland, Inc. v. Wolf. This case is challenging the appointment of Chad Wolf as Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. However, the injunction that has stayed the implementation of the final rule is held in Immigrant Legal Resource Center et al., v. Chad F. Wolf, et al. The District Judge for the Northern District of California stayed the implementation of the August 2020 final rule. The court issued that the preliminary injunction be effective nationwide. This case was brought on behalf of eight non-profit organizations serving immigrants.

The court found that plaintiffs in the case met the standard requirements for the preliminary injunction:

  • They were likely to succeed on the merits as the final rule lacked lawful authority as Chad Wolf was not serving under lawful authority under the Homeland Security Act when the final rule was enacted.
  • The plaintiffs must show that the final rule violated procedural and substantive requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act.
  • The defendants failed to show how the final rule was not arbitrary and capricious.
  • The defendants also failed to justify the shift in the policy behind the fee increases.

What Fees Would Have Increased?

The rule would have increased fees for the following petitions:

  • H-1B Petitions
  • H-2A Petitions
  • H-2B Petitions
  • H3 Petitions
  • L Visa Petitions
  • Visa Petitions
  • TN Visa Petitions
  • E Visa Petitions
  • P Visa Petitions
  • Q Visa Petitions
  • R Visa Petitions
  • Employment authorizations for international students

Paying More for Hiring H-1B and L-1 Workers

Under the rule, businesses with more than 50 employees with at least 50 percent of their workforce on H-1B and L-1 statuses would incur additional fees. Also, those seeking adjustments of statuses would see significant increases because they would have to pay separate fees for each stage and form.

Premium Processing

The rule would extend the premium processing timeline. Before the rule, the application would be processed within 15 calendar days. However, under the new rule, it could take 15 business days.

Citizenship and Asylum Costs

The rule would also increase the cost of citizenship by more than 80 percent by increasing the fee from $640 to $1,160. Asylum seekers would also need to pay a $50 fee for the applications of asylum and employment authorization cards. Under the rule, the United States would be the only country charging asylum seekers for filing their applications.

What is the Current Status?

The fees, forms, and policy changes will not be implemented by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at this time. Applicants do not have to submit the revised forms and fees. However, since the injunction, the USCIS has issued an update that as of October 1, it will accept forms with the current editions and fees and use the regulations and guidance currently in place. The government can appeal this injunction within 60 days of the decision. The decision rests on the outcome of Casa de Maryland, Inc. v. Wolf.

How is the Trump Administration Affected?

It was concluded that the plaintiffs sufficiently showed that public interest weighed in favor of the injunction in the Immigrant Legal Resource Center et al., v. Chad F. Wolf, et al. case. This decision impacted the Trump administration’s plan to restrict immigration and naturalization, however, the USCIS argues that it depends entirely on fees for its operations because of the budget crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Department of Homeland Security stated that increased fees are necessary to align processing applications in the overly burdened system. The agency has requested $1.2 billion in emergency funding to support its organization to prevent furloughs of 70 percent of their staff. Critics claim that the budget shortfall is due to department mismanagement. To determine if the injunction will impact one’s immigration status and applications, one should speak to an immigration lawyer about the associated costs.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Help Clients Achieve Citizenship

Our Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. provide comprehensive legal representation in all types of immigration matters. We can help you understand the impact of the injunction. Contact us online or call us at 215-925-4435 for an initial consultation today. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and nationwide.