New Restrictions on Waivers of Immigration Filing Fees Are Unlawful, Lawsuit Says

Oct 31, 2019
1:38 PM

On Thursday, a lawsuit by Public Citizen filed on behalf of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleges that “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) did not comply with federal rulemaking requirements when it narrowed the standard for individuals to receive waivers of the expensive application fees that the agency charges for immigration benefits, such as visas or naturalization,” according to a media release.

“Immigration application fees can be hundreds of dollars or more. Under a longstanding policy, USCIS followed a simple framework for considering applications for waivers of certain fees, typically allowing individuals to establish eligibility for waivers by showing that they receive an income-based government-benefit or that their income is under 150% of the federal poverty guidelines,” the Public Citizen release said.

“In October, however, USCIS narrowed the fee-waiver eligibility standard. Under its new standard, which will take effect December 2, the agency will no longer allow individuals to establish eligibility by showing receipt of government benefits,” the release added. “And to show eligibility through income or financial hardship, individuals will have to meet onerous new documentation requirements.”

NWIRP legal director Matt Adams called the USCIS changes “significant” and “substantive,” and they “will make it much more difficult for applicants to demonstrate what should be a straightforward fact—that they cannot afford expensive fees.”

“Making fee waivers inaccessible will hurt individuals who are trying to escape domestic abuse or trafficking, receive permission to work, or naturalize as citizens,” said Rebecca Smullin, the Public Citizen attorney representing NWIRP.

More information is available here.