[August 2020] USCIS Updates and How It Affects Immigration Proceedings

Immigration News & Updates

With the on-going pandemic, a lot has happened this month especially when it comes to US immigration. Both the administration and the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have kept everyone in the immigration field on a roller coaster with the changes with what they’ve said.

I’m Andres Mejer and as an immigrant like you, I know the challenges and difficulties of going through the immigration process. I decided to become an attorney to help educate you and all my clients so you don’t feel helpless as you move through your immigration journey.

In this article, we’re going to discuss the major updates that occured in August 2020 and how it affects immigration proceedings in the US.

USCIS Furloughs

Furloughing refers to the firing of employees, and this process will have a huge impact on those applying for citizenship, green card renewal, and other immigration concerns.

In May 2020, USCIS told the government that they would be furloughing employees if they did not get over a billion dollars in aid. That meant 70% of their employees (which is over 13,000) would be fired because they couldn’t pay them. Keep in mind that USCIS is 100% funded through the fees that it collects from you and other immigrants.

After Congress asked for a meeting with them, it was discovered that they had more money than they claimed to have, which means that there was no need to be firing employees. Instead, the USCIS said that they were going to start charging more for every application.  

After that, USCIS stated that they would be firing employees, but that the furloughs will happen on August 31st instead of August 4th. However, the USCIS announced on August 25 that it wouldn’t fire anyone at the time, but will instead be slowing down case proceedings significantly.

These conflicting statements left most immigrants and applicants wondering what’s going to happen to the process of immigration in light of these announcements, and how USCIS plans to enact these changes.

USCIS Processing Times

USCIS processing times are already slow and slowing down case proceedings only makes the immigration process more difficult for those who want to apply for a green card. Moreover, they claimed in their news release that USCIS can only maintain operations through September 30, 2030. Once again, they’re asking the Congress to help them by giving the USCIS money starting on October 1st to avoid being forced to fire employees. It’s the same thing they did before, which means that immigration services will be slowed down even more starting October.  

In addition, USCIS is reducing operational costs by decreasing payment to their outside contractors. This is similar to what happened in June when they stopped paying printers to produce green cards and employment authorization documents (EADs). Here’s what it means for you:

  • There will be longer phone response times when you call the USCIS Contact Center. Keep in mind it can take over two hours when you call now, even with an attorney on the line.  
  • It will take you longer to process any application including work authorization, and  
  • It will take even longer to process green card or citizenship applications.   

USCIS is an executive agency that can make these changes without input from Congress. It looks to me like another backdoor way for this Administration to reduce immigration without changing any immigration laws. They are slowly but surely killing immigration one step at a time.    

 USCIS Fee Increase and Form Changes

USCIS has had filing fee increases and immigration form changes in the works for over a year. Some of the changes in the USCIS forms include the following:

  • Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker
  • Form I-600 Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative
  • Form I-765 Employment Authorization
  • Form I-912 Fee Waiver

If you’re required to fill out any of these forms in your immigration proceeding, consult with an immigration lawyer for legal help on filling out the new forms.

The fee increase will take effect on October 2, 2020, which means that you’ll need to pay the increased fee if you file an application on or after this date. Overall, there is around a 20% increase in fees. A few of these changes are highlighted below.

  • Asylum fees, which were currently free, will now have a $50 application fee. However, if someone is granted asylum and files a form I-485 at a later time to get a green card, they can reduce that fee by $50 if they paid the Asylum fee.
  • Form I-130 Petition for an Alien Relative, which currently costs $535, will go up to $550 if you file online and $560 if you file on paper. As of the moment, it’s not recommended to file online just yet.
  • Form I-131 Travel documents will increase from $575 to $590.
  • Form I-360, which is for Widowers, VAWA, Special Immigrant Juveniles, and other special immigrants, is going to increase from $435 to $450.
  • Form I-485 goes down from $1,140 to $1,130 for most applicants, except for those who are under 14 and not filing with a parent who originally only had to pay $750.
  • The total fee for filing for adjustment of status in the US goes up from $1,225 to $2,270, which is an 85% increase!
  • The I-601 waiver (crime, fraud) and the I-212 waiver (order of removal) will go up from $930 to $1,010.
  • The I-601A increases from $630 $960 
  • The $930 fee for the I-192 for U-visa goes up to $1,400 per person.
  • Form I-751 Removal of Conditions for conditional green cards is going from $595 to $760.   
  • The I-765, which is currently $410, and will go up to $550. It will stay the same for DACA applicants, but EADs are now only going to be good for one year instead of two.
  • N-400 for citizenship is currently $640 and is going up to $1,160.   
  • The biometrics fee is going down to $30 from $85, which is one of the few fee decreases.

In light of these changes, we at Andres Mejer Law recommend that everyone who’s considering applying to do so as soon as possible. If you’d like an immigration attorney to help your immigration case, we are happy to review your case to see if it is one we would handle. You can reach out to us on Facebook via messenger or send an email to [email protected].

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