Client Alert / May News Immigration Updates #3
USCIS Proposes 10% Surcharge on Application Fees
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has proposed the introduction of a 10% surcharge for filing fees in order to reimburse Congress for $1.2 billion in requested emergency funding. The funding has been requested as USCIS has seen a dramatic decrease in immigration applications during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in such a steep loss of revenue that the agency expects to run out of funding this summer. The proposed fee hike comes after the agency introduced a rule last fall to raise application fees by 83%, though that proposal has not yet been finalized. USCIS, which is almost entirely fee-funded, predicts a 61% drop in visa petitions and applications in fiscal year 2020.
Obtaining an I-551 Stamp While USCIS Field Offices are Closed
Lawful permanent residents (LPRs) whose permanent resident cards have expired and who have an “emergent need” to prove their permanent status may request an appointment to request temporary evidence of permanent resident status (known as an I-551 stamp) by calling the USCIS Contact Center (1-800-375-5283). Although USCIS Field Offices and Application Support Centers will remain closed to the public for routine services until at least June 4, 2020, emergency appointments are available for LPRs with an urgent need for an I-551 stamp. Circumstances that may qualify as an emergency include an urgent need to document legal status for employment purposes or to travel internationally to visit a sick family member. LPRs whose driver’s licenses are expiring, and who do not live in states that have automatically extended driver’s licenses during the COVID-19 crisis, may also request emergency appointments if they have a compelling need to drive. In all cases, it is recommended to bring supporting documentation of the emergency, such as medical records or a letter from an employer.
ICE Extends I-9 Remote Inspection Option During COVID-19
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has issued a 30-day extension of its policy allowing for flexibility in the physical presence requirement for I-9 inspections. In recognition of the COVID-19 crisis, employers may inspect employees’ identity and work-authorization documents remotely within 3 business days of onboarding the employee. They can then defer in-person review of the identity and work authorization documents until normal operations resume. Employers should continue to maintain I-9 records, including written documentation of their remote inspection policy.