As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) temporarily closed its Field offices in the USA, to the public. USCIS processes, in the USA all applications and petitions for legal permanent residence (LPR), US citizenship, work permits, extensions of stay filed in the USA, change of status applications filed in the USA, applications for Asylum, biometrics for various applications and other applications. Therefore, for the immigrant community USCIS provides vital services and USCIS’s temporary closure of its Filed Offices has been a big concern for Jamaicans and Caribbean people who wish to obtain LPR status or citizenship or work permits.
Well, good news is on the way. USCIS shall be reopening on 4 June 2020. This means that interviews for LPR status and US citizenship will be resumed. USCIS will send notifications to all applicants and petitioners with scheduled appointments and naturalization oath ceremonies that were affected by the temporary closure of USCIS Field offices. USCIS Asylum offices will send interview cancellation notices and will also automatically re-notice asylum interviews. USCIS will also automatically re-notice ASC appointments (biometrics appointments) when USCIS Field office operations resume on 4 June. Individuals who had InfoPass or other appointments must take the initiative and reschedule those appointments through the USCIS Contact Center once the USCIS field offices are open for public access.
Because of its temporary closure, USCIS is claiming it is facing a huge budget deficit and is requesting $1.2 billion dollars in a bailout from Congress. USCIS asserts it will run it of money by the summers’ end unless a bailout is in the works. USCIS is unique in how it is funded. Other federal departments or agencies are funded by Congressional appropriations. USCIS is not. USCIS must raise its operating revenue by assessing and collecting filing fees for the various applications and petitions that are filed with USCIS. Because USCIS has closed its field offices and reduced its operations it has collected significantly fewer filing fees than it normally does creating a serious budget shortfall, according to USCIS. To address the shortfall USCIS is requesting financial assistance in the form of a bailout from Congress. In addition, USCIS proposes levying a ten (10) percent (%) surcharge on all applications and petitions. So, in addition to the already high filing fees, USCIS wants applicants and petitioners to pay a ten (10) percent (%) surcharge on all filing fees paid. This will be a great hardship to many applicants and petitioners. Bearing in mind the current Trump administration’s view towards immigration and especially family immigration, the proposed surcharge raises the question if the surcharge is more of another obstacle to legal immigration to the USA than a true necessity. USCIS has not released any recent data to back up its claim that its filing fee income is vastly reduced. Moreover, while USCIS Field offices are closed USCIS is still accepting applications and petitions and those applications and petitions must be accompanied by filing fees.
Therefore, one can expect that USCIS will pursue the surcharge in question and that filing fees will increase further soon after USCIS Field Offices reopen. In addition, come September 2020, I am of the view that USCIS will approach Congress and request an increase across the board for filing fees for applications and petitions, which will cause further hardship to those seeking immigration benefits and filling applications and petitions with USCIS.
Now more than ever it is important to consult with a qualified immigration attorney regarding any immigration questions you have. With filing fees increasing more and more it is no time to guess what to do. I may be contacted via phone at (305) 648 3909 or via e-mail at [email protected]
About the Author
Oliver J. Langstadt is a Jamaican American attorney admitted to practice law in the state of Florida. He was raised in St. Mary Jamaica, near Highgate. He completed his high school education at the Priory School in Kingston, Jamaica. He attended the University of Miami School of Law and graduated with his law degree in 1985. He has been practicing law and immigration law for over twenty-five years. He is well-seasoned in all aspects of immigration law, including family petitions, immigrant visas, non-immigrant visas, business visas, investor visas, waivers from removal and unlawful presence, naturalization applications, and removal defense. He may be contacted at 305 648 3909 or via e-mail, at [email protected] He welcomes the chance to be of service regarding your US immigration cases and matters.