Cautiously Optimistic about the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) Record Search Fee Increase

RPAC thanks Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, for alerting us to Executive Order 14012, Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems. [www.legalgenealogist.com/]

In the December 9, 2019 RPAC blog, we reported on the outrageous proposed fee increase by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Search fees were going to reach $240 or $385 instead of the $65 for the search or actual file; a 269% and 481% increase! We asked genealogical societies to send their contact information and the membership numbers so RPAC could make an impact statement on their behalf. One hundred forty-six genealogical organizations representing 333,034 members in twenty-eight states and Washington, DC. signed on to the RPAC statement sent to USCIS December 2019.

Because of such a push back from the genealogical community and others, the increased fee was modestly revised, but before the higher fees could go into effect on 2 October 2020 , a US District Court in California entered an order halting the fee increases as well as other changes in the immigration procedures. The appeal was dropped in late December. Then late last week with the new administration, Executive Order 14012 was issued and among the items listed were:

Sec. 3. Restoring Trust in our Legal Immigration System. The Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall review existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and any other similar agency actions (collectively, agency actions) that may be inconsistent with the policy set forth in section 1 of this order.

(a) In conducting this review, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall:

(i) identify barriers that impede access to immigration benefits and fair, efficient adjudications of these benefits and make recommendations on how to remove these barriers, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law; and

(ii) identify any agency actions that fail to promote access to the legal immigration system—such as the final rule entitled, “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fee Schedule and Changes to Certain Other Immigration Benefit Request Requirements,” 85 Fed. Reg. 46788 (Aug. 3, 2020), in light of the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act (title I of division D of Public Law 116-159)—and recommend steps, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to revise or rescind those agency actions.1

This does not mean that there will NOT be an increase in the fee schedules at a later time, but for now, the unconscionable hike will not go into effect. RPAC will continue to monitor and report any changes in USCIS fees. RPAC will also continue to advocate for the transfer of the historical USCIS records to the National Archives and Records Administration.

  1. §3ii, “Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans,” E.O. 14012, 2 Feb 2021.
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Former FGS FORUM columnist for Records Preservation and Access Committee, RPAC charter member, and NGS Life Member.

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