USCIS Fee Hike Halted for Now

On September 29th, a controversial USCIS final rule was halted in its tracks.  The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction halting implementation of USCIS’s Fee Rule.

Earlier this year, USCIS had published a final rule that would have significantly increased certain immigration and naturalization benefit request fees.  The rule would have also removed certain fee exemptions, changed fee waiver requirements, altered premium processing time limits, and modified intercountry adoption processing.  The rule had been set to take effect on October 2, 2020.

The rule was challenged by a lawsuit that had been filed by eight nonprofit organizations that provide a variety of “services benefitting low-income applicants for immigration benefits.”

In its decision, the court held that:                            

1. The implementation and the effective date of the final rule is STAYED IN ITS ENTIRETY pending final adjudication of this matter.

The Court reasoned that Plaintiffs had  persuasively argued that the public interest would be served by enjoining or staying the effective date of the final rule because if it takes effect, it would prevent vulnerable and low-income applicants from applying for immigration benefits, would block access to humanitarian protections, and would expose those populations to further danger.  The Court also found that Plaintiffs had met their burden to show the final rule violates some procedural and substantive requirements of the APA.  Furthermore, the Court made an equitable decision within its discretion to have the rule stayed in its entirety, despite the existence of a severability provision within the text of the rule.

2. Chad Wolf, Kenneth Cuccinelli, DHS, and all persons acting under their direction, ARE ENJOINED from implementing or enforcing the final rule or any portion thereof.

3. The preliminary injunction and stay are to take effect immediately and to remain in place until the merits of the case are resolved.         

4. The posting of security and DHS’s request for a brief administrative stay is denied.

Re the posting of security, the Court found in its discretion that it is not proper to impose any security for the preliminary injunction because (1) despite the assertion that USCIS “would continue to forgo millions of dollars of revenue each day” if the final rule is stayed or enjoined, DHS did not request a bond; and because (2) there is a significant public interest at stake.

Additional Rulings:

The Court also determined that the injunction is to have a nationwide effect.  In doing so, it reasoned that a broad injunction is necessary to remedy the extent of harm that would be caused to the Plaintiff if the final rule were implemented.  Specifically, it said that Plaintiffs have shown the Final Rule interferes with their organizational missions and is likely to cause them to lose funding.  

If you or someone else you know are thinking about filing an application with USCIS, please speak to an immigration attorney as soon as possible. The fee increases are halted for now but this may not last for long. An attorney can let you know if you are eligible to apply and can help you apply quickly while the low fees remain in place. - Call us!

Posted in Immigration Law

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