Judge Blocks USCIS from Raising Application Fees on October 2nd – For Now.

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In the last several months, USCIS has threatened furloughs because applications were down. The agency depends on applicants’ filing fees for most of its operating money. At the end of July, USCIS announced fee increases to take place effective October 2nd, 2020, which would address budget shortfalls claimed by the agency.

On Tuesday evening a Federal Judge in California granted an injunction stopping USCIS from applying the new fees on October 2nd. The court’s order applies to all of the fee increases and covers applicants in all states.

Does this mean I have more time to file my application at the current rates?

The short answer is – Yes. Current fees will remain in place… for now. As long as the injunction is in place, the fees stay the same. There is also a hearing on the underlying lawsuit challenging the fee increase in December.

However, government attorneys will be filing appeals to get the injunction lifted. If the injunction is lifted, the new fee schedule may go into effect.

We are still encouraging our clients to complete their applications and file ASAP.

Why was the fee increase blocked?

In short, the Judge found that the heads of USCIS and Department of Homeland Security were unlawfully appointed, and therefore unable to make these rules. Additionally, the process of making the rules did not follow the requirements set out by the Administrative Procedures Act, which includes “disclos[ing] adequate information about the thinking and data on which” they are basing the rules. While the government argued the fee increases were needed to keep the agency afloat, according to the court, much of the USCIS budget was left unexplained.

The Court also focused on some key aspects relating to the new asylum rules. USCIS’s rule would require asylum seekers to pay $50 for their asylum application. This is a major shift that would make the United States one of only a handful of countries charging for asylum. The Judge felt that USCIS failed to sufficiently justify the policy shift, and relied on factors that Congress never intended for them to consider.

When will the fees go up?

USCIS would be able to use the new fees if the injunction is lifted, which may happen by order of another judge. There is no telling if or when that may happen, but we do know there will be a hearing on the case in December. If the government wins at the hearing, the new fees may go up soon after that.

We will continue to monitor the case and provide updates as they may become available.

In the meantime, we encourage applicants to file applications with USCIS as soon as possible.

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