Looming Fee Increase Could Thwart Many U.S. Citizenship Applications

Yet another Trump administration anti-immigration initiative. Cost matters, and fees need not to pose an excessive financial burden on immigrants:

When Guadalupe Rubio, 41, contracted the coronavirus in July, she struggled to make the few steps to the bathroom in the mobile home that she shared with her teenage daughter in Kent, Wash.

The pandemic had already shuttered her small construction business, which also provided for her parents and three children in Sinaloa, Mexico. Now, the virus left her struggling to breathe, trapped inside without any means to support the six family members who depended on her.

Around the time the pandemic hit Washington State, Ms. Rubio became eligible to apply for United States citizenship. She made a bit too much money to qualify for a reduction in the application fee, currently $640, and the economic effects of the pandemic and her illness sapped away her savings. She applied for food stamps, a benefit that could also provide a break on the fee, but has so far been unable to reach the overwhelmed social services agency that could help her.

If she cannot save the money or obtain a fee waiver before the fall, Ms. Rubio’s prospects of becoming a citizen will become more remote. The Trump administration moved late last month to raise the cost of naturalization applications by more than 80 percent and to substantially tighten eligibility requirements for a subsidized application.

The price for naturalization will jump to $1,160 or $1,170 for online applications. The rule will also lower the income threshold to qualify for a fee waiver and eliminate the partial subsidy for the application.

Almost all other exceptions that allowed immigrants to waive the fee will be eliminated, including extenuating financial hardship and means-tested public benefits, like food stamps. Only some protected immigrants, including victims of domestic violence and human trafficking, will remain eligible.

Ms. Rubio is one of many who would no longer be eligible for a waiver. Immigration lawyers across the country are rushing to submit their clients’ applications to the already backlogged agency before the fee increases are introduced on Oct. 2.

“It’s a low blow during a pandemic,” Ms. Rubio said through a translator. “I have worked a lot for this country, and if I’m a citizen, I can — not just contribute more — but I can also better reap the benefits of all of my hard work in this country.”

Advocates for immigrants say the fee increase is intended to stymie legal immigration and deprive immigrants of their right to vote before the election in November.

Immigrants urge government to deliver on promise to wipe out citizenship fee

Of note. Applications dipped to about 17,000 monthly in November and December 2019 from an average of close to 24,000 in previous months, perhaps in anticipation of fee elimination:

As the U.S. moves to hike the fee to become an American citizen, Canada plans to eliminate the cost entirely.

Yet nearly a year after the Liberals made an election campaign promise to waive the $630 fee, newcomers to Canada who are now feeling a financial pinch from the pandemic are still waiting for the government to deliver.

Faizan Malik says coming up with that amount for himself and his wife is a “big problem,” especially since he is working reduced hours and facing higher costs of living due to COVID-19. With a single income between them, and because they’re helping to support family members in his native Pakistan, he said it’s tough to put any savings aside.

“It’s kind of difficult for me to scramble that amount of money, and if it’s that difficult for me, I wonder how difficult it would be for a new immigrant or a family of four,” he said.

Malik, a Toronto-based supply chain specialist, says even if the Liberal government doesn’t waive the fee completely, he would welcome a reduction in the amount to make it more affordable.

“Right now I’m just holding my horses and waiting for the right time if something happens, otherwise it’s very difficult to file with the current fee,” he said.

Citizenship gives a person the right to vote and to obtain a passport, and provides a sense of belonging in Canadian society. Some employers, including the Canadian Armed Forces, require citizenship.

The processing fee is $530, which was increased from $100 by the previous Conservative government, plus a $100 “right of citizenship” fee.

The Liberals promised to waive the fee during the fall 2019 election campaign.

Fall campaign commitment

“Becoming a citizen allows new immigrants to fully participate in Canadian society, and the process of granting citizenship is a government service, not something that should be paid for with a user fee. To make citizenship more affordable, we will make the application process free for those who have fulfilled the requirements needed to obtain it,” reads the Liberal campaign platform.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino was also instructed to follow through on that promise in his Dec. 13, 2019 mandate letter. The department will lose $400 million over four years if the fee is eliminated.

The minister’s spokesperson Kevin Lemkay says the Liberal government has made citizenship more accessible by cutting wait times and loosening the language, residency and other requirements to obtain citizenship.

“Our government places great value on Canadian citizenship and is committed to removing barriers and helping newcomers achieve citizenship faster while also protecting the integrity of the program,” he said.

Lemkay said the government remains committed to bringing forward a plan to eliminate the fees, but did not offer a time frame of when that would happen.

The planned move in Canada is in stark contrast to the U.S., where President Donald Trump is nearly doubling the cost of becoming a citizen by hiking the fee to $1,170 US from $640. That, and other immigration fee changes, are scheduled to come into effect in October.

Abhishek Rawat has been “waiting anxiously” for the Liberals to waive the fee, calling it “steep” for people like him with reduced incomes due to the pandemic. Rawat, a Toronto physicist, expects the promise has fallen through the cracks because the government is preoccupied with the pandemic.”I understand the government has due process to go through before they can eliminate the fees. On the other hand just last month they raised the fees for permanent residency applications. So they can move fast if they want,” he said.

‘In Canada’s interest’

Sharry Aiken, an associate professor of immigration law at Queen’s University, urged the government to move.

“It is in Canada’s interest to naturalize newcomers as fast and as efficiently as possible once they are otherwise eligible,” she said. “For many the presence of a fee is a barrier, and they will put off applying simply for financial reasons.”

Even though fees are reduced for children, a family of four would be required to pay $1,460, which Aiken says is prohibitive for many on tight budgets.

Andrew Griffith, author, former senior immigration official and fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, favours a reduced fee over an outright elimination. But since the government has made the commitment, he said it should follow through on it.

Griffith said it could be done quickly with a regulatory change.

The markedly different course that Canada is taking compared to the U.S. underscores the sharp contrast in immigration policies, he said.

“It’s part of the government’s efforts to have an overall message that immigration is good for the country; We want to increase the levels of immigration, they’ll make a contribution both in the short term and the longer term in terms of the demographics and we want you to feel part of the country,” he said.

Source: Immigrants urge government to deliver on promise to wipe out citizenship fee

The cost of becoming a U.S. citizen just went up drastically. And asylum is no longer free

The final increases, with the citizenship fees approaching UK rates:

The Trump administration announced on Friday an exorbitant increase in fees for some of the most common immigration procedures, including an 81% increase in the cost of U.S. citizenship for naturalization. It will also now charge asylum-seekers, which is an unprecedented move.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published on Friday a final rule in the Federal Register that details the new cost for dozens of immigration and naturalization applications, a further change in immigration policy to curb legal immigration of low-income foreign nationals.

The fees’ adjustment “to ensure U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recoversits costs of services,” they agency said in a press release, includes a $50 fee in the Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal. That will make the United States one of only four countries around the world that charge a fee for humanitarian protection.

The fee to apply for U.S. citizenship through naturalization will increase from $640 to $1,160 if filed online, or $ 1,170 in paper filing.

Other increases will hit petitions for employment authorization — Form I-765, which will go up by 34% to $550 — and for removing conditions on permanent residenceobtained through marriage (Form I-751), which will go up by 28%, from $595 to $760.

USCIS ADJUSTS FEES FOR IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION BENEFIT REQUESTS

The immigration agency cited the increase in operating costs and the decrease in its income to cover expenses as a reason to raise the fees.

According to the statement, the Department of Homeland Security agency adjusted the rates by a weighted average increase of 20% to recover its operating costs and thus avoid a funding shortfall estimated at $1 billion annually.

“USCIS is required to examine incoming and outgoing expenditures and make adjustments based on that analysis,” said Joseph Edlow, USCIS deputy director for policy, in a press release. “These overdue adjustments in fees are necessary to efficiently and fairly administer our nation’s lawful immigration system, secure the homeland and protect Americans.”

USCIS is facing a crippling budget shortfall and has told Congress it urgently needs $1.2 billion in emergency funding due to a drastic decline in green card and other visa applications. Most services were halted on March 18 due to the coronavirus pandemic and the agency resumed in-person services on June 4.

As services have been restored, the DHS agency has reduced the number of appointments and interviews to ensure social distancing rules.

COST HIKES FOR KEY IMMIGRATION PROCESSES

The most drastic rate increase affect work visas, citizenship, permanent legal residence and documents for families or crime victims.

“Fee waivers are almost entirely eliminated, pricing out lower-income applicants for citizenship and various humanitarian protections,” wrote Doug Rand, co-founder of Boundless Immigration, in his Twitter feed.

The regulation, “will increase fees across the board and eliminate most fee waivers, effectively putting a wealth test on immigrant and refugee communities who want to apply,” said Nicole Melaku, executive director of the National Partnership for New Americans, in a press release.

Some of the other immigration forms affected by the rate increase are:

I-131A, Application for Travel Document (Carrier Documentation)

Current fee: $575. Final Fee: $1,110. Percentage change: 76%.

I-881, Application for Suspension of Deportation

Current fee: $285. Final Fee: $1,810. Percentage change: 535%.

I-539, Application To Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status

Current fee: $370. Final Fee: $400 ($390 for online filing). Percentage change: 8% (5%).

I-929, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigrant (Victims of Criminal Activity)

Current fee: $230. Final Fee: $1,485. Percentage change: 546%.

N-470, Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes

Current fee: $355. Final Fee: $1,585. Percentage change: 346%.

“This final rule also encourages online filing by providing a $10 reduction in the fee for applicants who submit forms online,” said USCIS.

Source: The cost of becoming a U.S. citizen just went up drastically. And asylum is no longer free

Price watchdog criticises cost of becoming Swiss – SWI swissinfo.ch

Some of the highest fees in Europe:

Naturalisation fees vary among Switzerland’s 26 cantons. This has caught the eye of the federal price watchdog, who doubts that the fees fall within the legal framework.

The law on Swiss citizenshipexternal link stipulates that “the fees may not amount to more than is required to cover costs”. But for price watchdog Stefan Meierhans this is “more than questionable”, as he writes in his newsletterexternal link on Thursday.

He says one reason for his doubts are the great differences between cantons. These are “far too large and are not comprehensible against the background of the cost recovery principle”. The result is a “great inequality in treatment of people seeking naturalisation”.

What is a justified price for naturalisation? Meierhans considers a cantonal and municipal fee of a maximum of CHF1,500 ($1,540) per adult to be fair. He adds that it should be possible to increase the fee moderately for an “extraordinarily high amount of work”.

Most cantons charge around this figure, but a survey by the price watchdog shows there’s a wide range, with the process costing from CHF200 to CHF2,200. In 19 cantons the average is not more than CHF1,000. In several cantons, however, naturalisation can be considerably more expensive, with fees of up to CHF4,000 being possible.

Source: Price watchdog criticises cost of becoming Swiss – SWI swissinfo.ch

UK: Huge ‘immigration health surcharge’ fees paid by foreign NHS workers being reviewed, Priti Patel says

Always was an indefensible policy with the current COVID-19 pandemic highlighting the point (the UK has one of the higher number of deaths due to the pandemic in the EU):

The immigration health surcharge fees paid by foreign healthcare workers– despite working in the NHS themselves – are being reviewed, Priti Patel has said.

The home secretary revealed she had bowed to pressure to look again at the fees, in the light of the “extraordinary contribution” made by medical staff from overseas during the coronavirus pandemic.

Until now, ministers had held firm that the surcharge – due to soar from £400 a year to £624 this October – is a fair way for all migrants to contribute to the likely cost of their NHS care.

At the daily Downing Street press conference, Ms Patel was asked whether it was right to “scrap” the surcharge for overseas NHS staff, “given they too are fighting this pandemic”.

She replied that it was “under review”, adding: “We are looking at everything, including visas and surcharge.

“We are looking at everything now in terms of what we can do to continue to support everyone on the frontline of the NHS.

“We are speaking about the healthcare professionals, the medics, the doctors and nurses and allied healthcare professionals who have come to the UK.”

The possible cut, or removal, of the surcharge was revealed as Ms Patel played down hopes of an early easing of the lockdown as the death toll in hospitals passed 20,000.

She called it a “deeply tragic and moving moment”, warning “we are not out of the woods yet” – and telling people to stick to social distancing instructions.

“Quite frankly that is not right now. It is clear that it is not right now.”

The health surcharge was hugely controversial, even before the current crisis. There is no right of deferral, or ability to pay annually. Instead, it has to be paid in advance for the entire duration of an applicant’s visa or residency permit.

Meanwhile, nurses and junior doctors in training have starting salaries of between £18,000 and £23,000.

They are already paying tax and national insurance, like British nationals, and are therefore being “charged twice” for NHS treatment, campaigners have protested.

Nevertheless, only last month, when he announced his Budget, chancellor Rishi Sunak said it was necessary to ensure that “what people get out, they also put in”.

Once the UK leaves the Brexit transition period – at the end of the year – the government insists it will be paid by all EU citizens, as well as those from the rest of the world.

Around one in every seven NHS workers is foreign-born – a dependence that has attracted growing attention as they have been on the frontline of the fight against coronavirus.

Dame Donna Kinnair, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said it would welcome a U-turn to exempt nurses from the surcharge.

“The current crisis only serves to highlight the unfairness of charging overseas nurses working in the UK for healthcare services,” she said.

The concession comes ahead of Boris Johnson’s expected return to work in Downing Street on Monday, raising Conservative hopes of an end to the refusal to discuss how the UK will escape the lockdown.

The prime minister is expected back, three weeks after being taken to hospital when his coronavirus symptoms worsened – where he needed oxygen in intensive care, to ensure he survived

Conservative backbenchers have laid bare their frustrations at ministers batting away calls to set out options for easing restrictions, claiming it would underline the ‘stay at home’ message.

On Saturday, Philip Hammond, the former Conservative chancellor, asked if such a plan should be “published now”, replied: “Yes, I think that is the next step.

“I understand the prime minister is going to be back in harness in Downing Street at the beginning of next week and I very much hope that will signal a clear step change.”

Source: Huge ‘immigration health surcharge’ fees paid by foreign NHS workers being reviewed, Priti Patel says

Canadian immigration processing fees increase April 30. Canada is increasing immigration fees for the next two years

Another effect in the effective repeal of the Services Fees Act and the increased flexibility for departments to raise fees by about 50 percent (see my earlier analysis of the omnibus budget bill Bill C-44 Division 21: Risks and Implications of the Service Fees Act). Previously, the government had to provide a detailed rationale for any increase in fees:

The new regulations come into effect on April 30, at 9 a.m. EDT. Completed applications received before this time will be processed in accordance with the current fee schedule. Applications received on or after that time that do not include the correct fees will be returned to the applicant as incomplete.

Permanent resident processing fees for economic class applicants are generally being increased by 50 per cent as follows:

  • Principal applicants of the Economic business class (self-employed, start-up visa, Quebec investor, Quebec entrepreneur, and Quebec self-employed) will increase from $1,050 to $1,575;
  • Principal applicants in the economic non-business class will go up from $550 to $825. This increase will not apply to principal applicants and their families in the Caregivers programs, which will remain unchanged;
  • Fees for spouses or common-law partners of all economic classes will go up from $550 to $825;
  • Fees for dependent children of all economic classes will go up from $150 to $225;
  • The right of permanent resident fee will increase from $490 to $500, which is an increase of two per cent.

Fees are expected to increase in two years based on the applicable Consumer Price Index increase rounded to the nearest $5. New fee amounts will be released in 2022.

Fees for permanent resident cards, permanent resident travel documents and certification or replacement immigration documents will not increase.

Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) says that permanent residence fees have not increased since 2002. Fees for permanent residence applications will change again in 2022 in accordance with the Consumer Price Index.

Source: Canadian immigration processing fees increase April 30 | Canada Immigration News

Citizenship is a tough mountain to climb, especially under Trump

Good overview of some of the additional hurdles, including increased fees. But of note that the backlog dates from Obama:

Gaining citizenship is a long, expensive and complicated process — one that has gotten more so under the Trump administration.

As the system currently stands, it can take 10 years or more for a person who entered the United States on a visa to become a citizen. Just getting a green card can take at least five years. Becoming eligible to apply for citizenship as a permanent resident after that? Another five years.

If you get to that stage, you then fill out the N-400 form, submit it with a $640 filing fee and then ready yourself for the civics test, biometric appointment and potential further vetting. After clearing those last hurdles, you are home free — a bona fide U.S. citizen.

Except, for an increasing number of people, that process never really takes off.

Around 700,000 applications for citizenship remained pending at the end of 2019 — and wait times have doubled over the past two years to almost three years, according to a September report by the Colorado State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

“The substantial delay to naturalization created by the backlog negatively impacts voting rights, civil rights, and the administration of justice,” the report’s authors write.

A backlog results when the number of applications coming in exceed the ones processed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services staff, who are tasked with adjudicating immigration benefits. Citizenship applications tend to spike before general elections, so throughout history, there have been crests and troughs in backlogs as the agency tries to catch up to the fluctuating heap of incoming applications.

The most recent uptick in pending applications started during the Obama administration. According to Eric Cohen, executive director of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, technological updates instituted by the administration — meant to speed the processing along — actually led to delays due to unforeseen bugs. According to a 2017 report to Congress, the electronic platform initially faced “multiple technical problems, which negatively impacted processing times.”

The 2016 election year saw more applications than expected, as people rushed to apply before candidate Donald Trump could fulfill anti-immigration promises as president, so despite the technical hiccups demand continued to rise.

“It is my understanding that they underestimated the bump [in applications],” says Cohen, whose organization oversees the New American Campaign, a coalition of 150 organizations that provide legal help with naturalizations.

“The Trump effect was more profound than expected.”

The number of pending applications actually doubled under the Obama administration, from around 300,000 in 2010 to around 700,000 in early 2017, when Trump took office. Fast forward two years, at the end of fiscal 2019, when the administration boasted about its processing progress.

“The men and women of USCIS continue to administer our nation’s lawful immigration system, processing a large number of applications and requests while naturalizing 833,000 new U.S. citizens, an 11-year high,” Ken Cuccinelli, then serving as the acting director of USCIS, touted in an end-of-the-year email.

But on the back end, delays compound the backlog, critics say.

The failure to resolve them is partly the result of a tepid response on the part of the Trump administration to the surge in naturalization applications, according to some.

Cohen mentions two other contributing factors causing delays: more interviews and additional vetting, even in cases where neither are needed. He says he has heard stories of people vetted during the asylum process, then again when they sought to obtain their green cards, and then once more during the citizenship process. One elderly Iranian woman was so distraught during the final vetting that she broke down and withdrew her application, Cohen says.

“By doing super vetting, what you’re doing is discouraging people from applying, you’re giving people a really hard time during their interview process, and you’re taking much longer — 50 percent-plus longer,” he says. “Therefore, you’re doing fewer and fewer applications. So there are a lot of these bumps in the road that are there, I would say, purposely.”

USCIS maintains that it is “completing more citizenship applications, more efficiently and effectively — outperforming itself as an agency,” a spokesman said via email, and that “many factors relating to an individual’s case can affect processing times.”

In addition, the administration has put up what critics call the “second wall” — seemingly small rule changes, fee hikes and additional paperwork requirements that altogether make naturalization much more burdensome and prohibitive.

The one proposal advocates are most concerned about is a regulation that would, among other things, increase citizenship application fees from $640 to $1,170, and fees for green card applications from $1,225 to $2,195. It also would eliminate all fee waivers for these applications.

In a comment on the regulation, the National Partnership for New Americans, a group that helps immigrants naturalize, writes that the increase would leave tens of thousands of immigrants it serves unable to undergo naturalization.  It is “undermining the civic and economic benefits that are a direct result of welcoming and naturalizing millions,” the organization writes.

“The agency is proposing to do this during the exact same time that citizenship application fees are beginning to rise in anticipation of the presidential election of 2020.”

UK’s expensive visa fees ‘could deter NHS staff and scientists’

Supply and demand theory would suggest the higher costs will have an impact on the numbers and attractiveness of the UK as an immigration destination:

The UK’s “sky-high” visa fees could deter vital NHS staff and the “brightest and best” scientists that Boris Johnson wants to attract with his new immigration policy, experts have warned.

Nurses, lab technicians, engineers and tech experts who currently flock to the UK from the EU may not be able to afford to do so if the prime minister’s proposed immigration overhaul becomes law.

At £1,220 per person, or £900 for those on the shortage occupation list, the fees are among the highest in the world – and this is before charges for using the NHS and costs for sponsoring employers are taken into account.

Comparisons with fee structures in other countries, published by the Institute for Government (IfG) thinktank, show that a family of five with a five-year work visa for one individual would have to pay £21,299 before they could enter in the country.

This includes the annual £400 health surcharge that must also be paid upfront per person. This is double the fee charged by Australia and about 30 times the amount charged by Canada, where it costs just over £10,000 for a family for five years. Germany charges £756 for entry for a family of that size.

The fee comparisons are equally stark for individuals. A single person who wants to come to the country will be charged up to £3,220 for five years. If they want to move to the UK with a spouse, the cost would rise to £6,500 for a five-year work stint.

UK visa fees compared with other countries
UK visa fees compared with other countries Photograph: Institute for Government

This compares with Canada, which charges £220 for an individual visa for three years; Germany, which charges £147; and France, which charges £2,075, according to the data supplied to the IfG. Luxembourg charges €50 (£42) for a visa and€80 for a residents permit.

Source: UK’s expensive visa fees ‘could deter NHS staff and scientists’

And on the gender impacts:

The British government’s plan for a post-Brexit immigration overhaul was designed to wean the economy off its reliance on cheap foreign labor. But in the process, women’s groups warned on Thursday, women will suffer disproportionately.

The new points-based system will give precedence to occupations in which women are underrepresented, favor male migrants over female and deepen gender inequality, according to the Women’s Budget Group, an independent network that promotes gender equality.

“The new immigration system roundly fails to understand the lived experience of women, many of whom are prevented from accessing paid work by the weight of unpaid work — caring for children, older people and those with disabilities — that successive governments rely upon them to do,” said Sophie Walker, the chief executive of the Young Women’s Trust, a British feminist organization.

Under the new rules, which will be implemented next January, applicants will be required to receive a job offer with a salary of at least 25,600 pounds, about $33,300. The salary threshold will be lower in special cases where there might be a shortage in skills, such as in nursing.

By and large, however, that requirement will work against women, who are more likely to work in sectors like home and senior care that are relatively poorly compensated, even though the skill levels of such women are relatively high, women’s advocates say.

“Care workers’ average annual salaries stand at just £17,000, not because care work is ‘low-skilled,’ but because the work force is 80 percent female and therefore undervalued and underpaid,” says Mandu Reid, the leader of the Women’s Equality Party.

Imposing the salary requirement would mean “shutting out care workers, piling pressure on women to take on yet more unpaid care, and widening the existing social care gap between need and provision,” she said.

Women are also four times more likely than men to leave paid work to shoulder unpaid caring responsibilities for children and older relatives. This is one cause of the gender pay gap and gender inequality, the Women’s Budget Group found.

As a result of these inequities, major industries like food production, hospitality, health and social care that rely on female migrant workers are likely to see staff shortages after the new measures are put into place.

In the points-based system, the government gives top priority to scientists, engineers, academics and graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, once again to the detriment of women because of the gender disparities in those professions.

“There is a great emphasis on wanting to attract scientists to the U.K. under the new system, but it is another well-known fact that women are underrepresented in the sciences,” said Adrienne Yong, a lecturer in law at the City Law School in London.

“That the U.K. will give a Ph.D. in STEM subjects 10 more points than Ph.D.s in other subjects already puts women on a back foot,” she said, “as there is already a problem with female students doing STEM subjects, much less continuing further education to a doctoral level with that specialism.”

On Wednesday, the cabinet minister responsible for migration policy, Priti Patel, suggested that around eight million “economically inactive” people in Britain could be trained to fill such shortages, but experts say that many of those people are women who are already providing full-time care for children and families.

“It feels like they just want us to fill the badly paid jobs while the men and foreigners will get the higher-paying jobs,” said Amy Pears, a mother of three who left her job as a professional caregiver and went on benefits in 2015 because she could not afford child care. “My mother is disabled, so between her and the three children I have my hands full.”

The Women’s Equality Party says that without substantial government investment in child and elder care, women are put into a position where they simply cannot work.

“These shortsighted plans are in fact more likely to exacerbate the shortages in formal care, leaving it to women to pick up unpaid and increase the number of ‘economically inactive’ full-time carers,” Ms. Reid said.

Women’s groups warned that shutting out foreign workers would put more pressure on women who are already in Britain, particularly caregivers.

“Without extra colleagues from abroad, U.K. carers are going to have even less time to do the job they’re employed to do and offer people the dignity they deserve,” Ms. Walker said. “This policy makes it an inevitability that this exhausted system will come under further strain, while female family members will increasingly be expected to pick up the pieces as the system continues to erode.”

Ms. Pears said that many of her European friends and former colleagues, who played important caregiving roles, would be locked out of the new system because they did not qualify for the salary threshold or education qualifications.

“These people are carrying a huge burden for our country, and the truth of the matter is we need them,” she said. “Without them we are putting our services at risk.”

Source: Women Will Be Hit Hard by U.K.’s New Immigration Rules, Experts WarnWith its minimum salary requirements, the new system would particularly affect female migrants, who tend to cluster in lower-paid occupations.By Ceylan Yeginsu

USA: New Immigration Fees To Hit Businesses Hard

Quite striking. Continues to strengthen the “Canadian advantage” in attracting high-skilled immigrants:

Will “Pay more for less service” be the Trump administration’s new marketing slogan for businesses dealing with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)? The administration plans to raise fees more than 50% for many business applications, while workers will need to pay more to become citizens or gain permanent residence.

On November 14, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a proposed rule that would increase fees across key business immigration categories, in essence, levying a tax increase on employers that access the global market for labor. The fee increases come at a time when U.S. job openings in 2019 outnumbered the unemployed by “the widest gap ever,” which, along with a large body of economic research, undermines the argument that immigrants prevent natives from finding jobs.

The fee increases are unlikely to reduce processing times at the agency because USCIS states in the rule that it will not change the policies that have created the longer delays. Lack of money does not seem to be the problem: The average USCIS case processing time increased by 91% between FY 2014 and FY 2018, at the same time the agency’s budget rose by 30%, according to USCIS data, notes the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). Processing times became longer at the agency even when the number of new cases dropped by over one million between FY 2017 and FY 2018.

Case processing times have increased in the past few years due to:

  • The USCIS director requiring adjudicators to no longer defer to prior adjudications when evaluating extension of status applications, which has led to a larger workload and compelled many experienced employees of tech companies to leave the United States.
  • The administration employing terms such as “heightened screening and vetting” of applications to justify resource-intensive checks without analysis as to their benefit.
  • USCIS transferring resources, including personnel, to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

A close reading of the proposed fee regulation indicates USCIS will continue and, in some cases, expand these policies.

Below is a summary of the proposed fee changes by visa category:

H-1B and L-1 Visas: The fee for L visa petitions will increase by 77%, rising from $460 to $815. The fee for an H-1B petition will rise by 22%, from $460 to $560.

If enacted, much higher fees will be imposed on companies with more than 50 employees that have at least 50% of their workforce in H-1B and L-1 status. USCIS proposes in the fee regulation to reinterpret the law to impose an additional $4,000 fee not just on initial H-1B petitions and a $4,500 fee on initial L-1 petitions, as is the current practice laid out in the statute (Public Law 114-113). USCIS also proposes to impose the fee for extensions when the fraud prevention and detection fee is not collected.

“USCIS’s proposed change in how it interprets the applicability of the Public Law 114-113 fee is unreasonable and clearly unlawful as it runs counter to clear statutory language indicating the 50/50 fees should only apply to petition filings where the fraud prevention and detection fee is also required,” according to Vic Goel, managing partner of Goel & Anderson, LLC. “Given that this proposed interpretation is also diametrically opposite to USCIS’s own longstanding interpretation of this provision, it raises questions about the agency’s motivations for this change after so many years.” (See here for more on the legislative history.)

Other High-Skilled Employment Visas: USCIS is increasing a range of high-skilled visa petitions by more than 50%. Petitions for O visas (extraordinary ability/achievement) would rise by 55%, from $460 to $715. Fees would increase by 53%, from $460 to $705, for petitions for the TN (NAFTA professionals), E (treaty traders and investors), P (athletes/entertainers), Q (cultural exchange) and R (religious workers) categories, as well as for H-3 visas for training. USCIS will change the current I-129 form, now used for multiple categories, and rename the forms based on the visa type.

Premium Processing: USCIS proposes to change premium processing. The cost will remain the same. However, USCIS will now process a case within 15 business days, rather than the current 15 calendar days. That means it will take longer for employers to receive decisions when paying the additional $1,440 premium processing fee.

H-2A and H-2B Visas: The current fee for H-2A (seasonal agricultural) and H-2B (seasonal nonagricultural) petitions is $460. USCIS proposes to raise the fee for H-2A to $860 and H-2B to $725 for petitions with named workers and limiting an application to 25 workers. Costs for employers could rise considerably, since H-2A and H-2B petitions can now list 100 or more workers.

Increasing Costs for Workers, Including for Adjustment of Status: In its comments to the proposed fee rule, AILA notes applicants for adjustment of status (obtaining permanent residence inside the U.S.) will “see at least a 75% increase in the total cost of filing forms I-485 [for adjustment of status], I-765 [for employment authorization] and I-131 [for a travel document].” That is because USCIS will now charge separate fees for the three forms.

USCIS would increase the cost of the application to become a U.S. citizen by more than 80%, rising from $640 to $1,170 (although a separate $85 biometrics fee would be eliminated). USCIS would also raise the cost for an asylum applicant to apply for an employment authorization document from the current zero to $490, one of many policy changes to discourage asylum applications.

Doug Rand of Boundless said in an interview to anticipate at least two or three months into 2020 before a final rule on the fee increases is published. He believes lawsuits and preliminary injunctions are both possible.

Businesses are not pleased with the USCIS proposal to raise fees. “Many companies . . . consider this proposal as imposing increased costs on them for, at best, the same suboptimal services they current receive from USCIS,” commented the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The best way to understand the plan to increase fees is as another tax or tariff. It is aimed at admitting fewer immigrants, foreign-born workers and professionals by taxing them more. Given America’s demographic issues, the country’s demand for labor and the increasing importance of high-skilled workers, economists would question the wisdom of the administration’s policies.

Source: New Immigration Fees To Hit Businesses Hard

UK: Government faces high court challenge over ‘utterly shameful’ £1000 child citizenship fee

As it should. Cost recovery is justifiable (administrative cost), making of government service a money-making enterprise is not:

The Home Office is set to face a High Court challenge over the £1,012 fee it charges to register a child as a British citizen, after a judicial review of the charge was brought by the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens.

Amnesty International UK has been supporting the litigation to challenge the profit-making element of the fee, calling for an immediate end to the Government’s “shameless profiteering” off children’s rights. Mishcon de Reya are providing pro bono support to the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens on the case.

With the current administrative processing cost at only £372 per application, a profit of £640 is made by the Home Office for the registration of each child.

The landmark case is being brought by two children, known as A and O, and will be heard in the High Court at a three-day hearing on 26-28 November. If successful, the final ruling could have implications for an estimated 120,000 people in the UK.

In a statement submitted as part of the proceedings, O, aged 12, says:

“I was born in England in 2007. I have never travelled to another country. I don’t want to tell my friends that I am not British like them because I’m scared. I worry that if my friends find out, they won’t understand that I really am British like them.

“I enjoy playing netball for my school team. My team have been abroad twice for netball tournaments, but I could not travel because I do not have my British passport.

“I was born here and feel all of me is British. This is my home. I’ve got nowhere else but here.”

Solange Valdez-Symonds, Director at the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens, said:

“Tens of thousands of children who were born in this country are being charged exorbitant fees to register their citizenship rights. The futures of these children are slowly and silently being chipped away. Such barefaced profiteering from children by the Home Office is utterly shameful.

“Children’s rights are not for sale. We hope the High Court challenge will rightly bring an end to this injustice.”

Campaigners call on UK Government to stop blocking children’s rights

Ahead of tomorrow’s hearing, campaigners from Amnesty UK’s Children Human Rights Network will hand in 30,000-strong petition to Home Office calling for immediate end to the fee.

The campaigners will be building a wall outside the Home Office with messages of support from activists across the UK [pictures available].

They will be joined by some of the children affected by the profiteering fee, including 16-year-old Daniel, who came to this country with his mother when he was three years-old and was granted his British citizenship last year, he said:

“My mother saved what she could but sometimes she didn’t eat properly so she could do this. At the time we had some support from the council but my mother was not then permitted to work except unpaid as a volunteer with a charity. It has been really difficult for my mother.”

Judicial review

The judicial review claim asks the Home Office to:

i) Set the registration fee at no more than the administrative cost;

ii) introduce a fee waiver for children who cannot afford the fee; and

iii) provide a fee exemption for children in local authority care.

Source: UK: Government faces high court challenge over ‘utterly shameful’ £1000 child citizenship fee