Government to raise immigration fee
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Immigration and Naturalization Service plans to raise fees for immigrants for services ranging from fingerprinting to obtaining green cards.
Under the proposed fee structure, the INS would charge $255, or $35 more, for permanent residency green cards.
Naturalization fees would go up $35 to $260. Work permit and international adoption fees would rise to $120 and $460, $20 and $55 increases, respectively.
”This is critically important so that we are in a position to eliminate backlogs and to make sure in future years we have a fee schedule in place that will recoup costs so backlogs don’t show up again,” said William Yates, deputy executive associate commissioner for the immigration services division.
The INS will publish the fees in the Federal Register Wednesday and the public will have 60 days to respond. The agency hopes to put the fees in place in January.
Some immigrant groups were unhappy with the news given the agency’s history of backlogs for applications.
”They don’t sound minuscule to me or negligible,” said Christina DeConcini, director of advocacy at Catholic Legal Immigration Network. ”There’s a huge amount of working poor that don’t qualify for (fee waivers) so it can be a significant expense for them to come up with money for these applications.”
The increases are ”INS again desperately seeking money,” said Judy Golub, advocacy director for American Immigration Lawyers Association.
The fee hikes are expected to generate an additional $127 million for the agency, with more than $1 billion raised, Yates said.
He defended the increases, saying the agency has made significant improvements. As of July, the INS had 600,000 pending naturalization petitions, down from 2.2 million in February 1999. It also had 900,000 pending green card applications.
Last year, the agency predicted it would process 6 million applications. It processed 6.5 million, Yates said.
The INS budget for completing applications and naturalization programs comes largely from applicants’ fees. The fees cover asylum and refugee applications, which are free, and costs for those who can’t afford to pay the fees.
The budget for processing applications has nearly quadrupled since 1994 to $500 million, and the staff has more than doubled to about 6,100, according to a General Accounting Office report issued in June.
But during the same time, the INS backlog on processing applications increased nearly fourfold to about 3.9 million, the GAO said. The GAO is an investigative arm of Congress.
INS began looking at fee increases following a congressionally mandated audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. Yates said the audit had proposed higher increases for some of the fees, but said those recommendations came before the agency improved some of its application processing.
Fee increases in 1998 and 1999 were much larger. Green card fees went from $130 to $220 and citizenship cost rose from $95 to $225.
President Bush campaigned on a pledge to streamline and shorten processing times for immigration applications. An INS official said the fee increases are part of an overall strategy to meet Bush’s goal of reducing processing times to six months or less.
Processing times can vary from six months to about two years.
On the Net:
Catholic Legal Immigration Network: http://www.cliniclegal.org/
Federal Register: http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/
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