“I’ll apply once Trump is gone” — I’ve heard this phrase echoed numerous times in 2020, and particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic. While I understand the underlying sentiment expressed (e.g. immigration applications may be more favorably adjudicated under a new administration), I caution anyone with this line of reasoning to reconsider any delay in applying for immigration benefits for the following reasons:
- USCIS Will be Increasing the Costs of a Majority of Immigration Applications
First, delaying submission is very likely to result in having to pay increased application costs. Beginning October 2, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will be adjusting USCIS fees by a weighted average increase of 20 percent, including additional new fees for certain immigration benefits.
For example, the total cost of applying for permanent residency through a family-based petition (e.g. with concurrently filed work permit and travel authorization applications) is increasing by 46.62-percent (i.e. $1,760.00 to $2,830.00), while Citizenship applications are increasing by approximately 46.97-percent ($725.00 to $1170.00). Employment visas are not exempt from this increase–L visas are increasing by 75-percent, O visas are increasing by 53 percent, and H-1B Visas are increasing by 21 percent. Given the limited time remaining before the fee increases go into effect, those with financial constraints should consider applying as soon as possible.
UPDATE: On September 29, 2020, Judge Jeffrey S. White, Federal District Court Judge of the North District Court of California, issued a preliminary injunction and stay of the effective date of the Final Rule of the fee increase. Until the order is lifted, Applicants will not have to pay the higher fees as stated in the Final Rule. Because the injunction is only temporary, we still recommend filing your immigration application sooner rather than later before the Final Rule ultimately goes into effect.
- The Recently Updated Public Charge Rule has Been Enjoined During COVID-19
Second, applicants for permanent residency or applicants for changes/extensions of nonimmigrant status should take advantage of the fact that USCIS is not applying the February 24, 2020 Public Charge Rule. As long as the July 29, 2020 Southern District of New York Injunction is in effect, USCIS will apply the 1999 public charge guidance that was in place prior to February 24, 2020. Under the 1999 rule, applicants do not need to complete Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency. The 1999 public charge rule is far less stringent than the 2020 rule, and requires much less documentation to satisfy the adjudicating officer’s determination that an immigrant is not likely to become a public charge. However, there is no indication regarding how long the court injunction will remain in place–applicants should take advantage of applying for immigration benefits as long as this injunction is in place.
- Incumbents are Hard to Defeat
There is a substantial chance that President Trump will win reelection. In the last 100 years, only three U.S. incumbent Presidents have ever lost (Herbert Hoover in 1932, Jimmy Carter in 1980, and George H.W. Bush in 1992). While I am no polling expert, aspiring immigrants should consider the realistic possibility of the President’s reelection and contemplate how they will navigate the U.S. immigration system going forward.
In so doing, you should consider that the most beneficial changes to immigration law (from the perspective of an immigrant) occurred under Ronald Reagan’s watch and were because of Ronald Reagan. President Reagan was conservative. Conversely, some of the most sweeping changes to U.S. immigration law that had a negative impact upon immigrants were signed into law by President Clinton. President Clinton was a democrat. Similarly, approximately five times the amount of people were deported during the democratic Obama administration then were under the previous five administrations combined. Simply put, do not wait to pursue relief that you are otherwise eligible for because you think a different President will benefit you.
Immigrating to the United States remains a complicated and often difficult task and it is essential to consult with an expert regarding your immigration issues, now more than ever.