Key Points

  • Two lawsuits have been filed against USCIS challenging the legality of its fee increases
  • Plaintiffs argue fee increases are unlawful and disfavor low-income and vulnerable applicants
  • Fee increases are scheduled to start on October 2, 2020
  • Fees will increase to $1,170 for naturalization applications and $580 for the first employment authorization
  • Final fee rule includes a 21 percent budget increase

Overview

Two lawsuits have been filed against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) challenging the legality of the upcoming fee increases for certain immigration benefits. USCIS claims that its fee increases are necessary to offset a predicted budgetary shortfall and rising operational costs.

Lawsuits Against USCIS

On August 20, 2020, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and Sidley Austin LLP filed a lawsuit seeking an emergency injunction to prevent USCIS’s final fee rule from taking effect on October 2, 2020. In their complaint, plaintiffs argue that the final rule is unlawful because it was issued without constitutional or statutory authority. They also argue that the fee increases will disfavor low-income applicants and discourage vulnerable applicants from seeking statutory protection.

On August 21, 2020, several immigration advocacy groups filed a separate lawsuit against USCIS. The plaintiffs argue that the agency’s actions will make it more expensive and challenging for individuals to apply for certain immigration benefits including asylum, employment authorization, and naturalization. The plaintiffs add that USCIS will raise application fees up to 266 percent in some cases and eliminate fee waivers for most immigrant applications. Their complaint also challenges the agency’s budgetary model and revenue projections.

Who Will be Impacted by the Fee Increases?

Starting in October, the final fee rule will increase the cost of applications for many immigration benefits. USCIS will start charging up to $1,170 for naturalization applications. For the first time, the agency will impose a non-waivable fee for asylum applicants. It will also charge applicants $580 for their first employment authorization. USCIS’s final fee rule also includes a budget increase of 21 percent.