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A proposed rule by the federal government would deny asylum to foreign nationals if they come from, or recently passed through, certain countries. Immigration officials say the rule would protect national security by slowing the spread of communicable diseases like COVID-19. But the American Medical Association is criticizing the proposal, calling it a form of discrimination against asylum seekers.

‘Legalize discrimination’

In a statement on the subject, the AMA quotes a letter that the group’s executive vice president and CEO, Dr. James L. Madara, wrote to federal officials. “The AMA is concerned that the proposed rule would legitimize discrimination against vulnerable asylum seekers,” Dr. Madara wrote. He also said the rule would base the determination of whether an asylum seeker is eligible on border agents who are “uninformed” about medical matters, and overall make it much more difficult for people seeking a stay of removal based on a credible fear of torture or persecution in their country of origin.

Normally, the AMA does not involve itself in political matters, especially ones that do not have to do with medicine. But Dr. Madara’s letter states that the fact that the rule is based on public health concerns justifies his comments. He believes that the process of determining if a would-be asylee has a communicable disease should be determined by health officials on a case-by-case basis.

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On July 29, a federal court had ruled that the government could not enforce the public charge rule during the pandemic. This was a much welcomed announcement since many immigrant families are being severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new rules would effectively hinder their changes to obtain a legal immigration benefit for which they would otherwise quality. Under the rule, and while assessing the applicant’s eligibility, the government can take into account the individual’s past use of public benefits, age, medical issues, education, and work history, among other aspects, in evaluating the person’s likelihood of becoming a public charge.

On August 12, however, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the prior ruling should only apply to states in the Second Circuit (New York, Vermont, and Connecticut). There are still many unanswered questions on this issue, including what will happen to applicants who did apply between the window of time after July 29 and before the ruling was narrowed. Meanwhile, the I-944 form, Declaration of Self Sufficiency, which is used to demonstrate eligibility under the public charge rules, is not available on USCIS’ website.

It is final! USCIS announced today they are increasing many application fees starting on October 2, 2020. Some of these fees are increasing significantly, including the fee for Naturalization applications, which is going from $640 to $1,160. Asylum applicants, who historically did not have to pay any fees for their applications, will now have to pay $50 in order for their cases to be considered. See our chart below for some examples of these changes.

In addition, a new fee structure will significantly increase the cost for adjustment of status applicants. Under the current rules, most adjustment applicants pay a fee of $1,140 (with an added $85 biometric fee for most individuals). The fee is lower, at $750, for children under 14 year old applying with a parent. Along with their green card applications, applicants can currently request their work and travel permits, which are renewable as long as the application is pending, for no extra fee. Under the new rules going into effect on October 2, the new fee structure will change dramatically and instead require separate fees for each application, as well as increase the fee for children. The new fee will be $1,130 for all applicants, regardless of age, plus a $550 fee for work authorizations and $590 for travel permits.

ProcessCurrent FeeNew Fee starting on October 2, 2020
I-192 Application for Advance Permission To Enter as Nonimmigrant (USCIS)$930$1,400
I-212 Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the U.S. After Deportation or Removal$930$1,050
I-589 Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal$0$50
I-601A Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver$630$960
I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence$595$760
I-929 Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigrant$230$1,485
N-400 Application for Naturalization$640$1,170

USCIS receives most of its funding from fees paid by applicants, but the lower number of applications submitted during the pandemic and budget cuts have significantly affected the agency. The last time USCIS increased its fees was in December of 2016.

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Are you requesting a green card and you are being told you need an Affidavit of Support? You’re not alone! An Affidavit of Support is a requirement for most immigrants seeking a green card and it serves to show that they have adequate financial support and are not likely to become a public charge. The document is a binding contract between the sponsor and the government to financially support the immigrant in the case that he or she is unable to support himself or herself.

Now, don’t panic! Most affidavits of support are never enforced. An affidavit of support could be enforced, however, if the immigrant requests and receives certain means-tested benefits, such as TANF (cash assistance), Medicaid, or SSI (Supplemental Security Income). Even if the immigrant meets the income requirements for these benefits, please note most would not be eligible for at least 5 years after they get their green card. Please see page 11 of this report for more information on the 5-year bar).

The affidavit of support would become effective at the time the green card is granted and is valid until one of the following conditions are met:

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Given the current delays by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, many green card renewal applicants have seen their estimated processing timelines come and go and they have yet to receive their new green cards. A green card is essential to show that the individual is a legal permanent resident and is thus legally allowed to work in the United States, return to the country after a trip abroad, and qualify for key benefits such as unemployment. At Lawit Law, we have received a number of calls from concerned immigrants who had timely filed their applications to renew their document or requested their naturalization. Applicants may be experiencing significant delays for a number of reasons, including the closing of Application Support Centers (where they would take your picture and fingerprints), the disruption caused by the end of the contracts with at least two companies that produce the physical green cards and work permits, the seemingly impending furloughs, and, of course, COVID-19.

If you are being affected by these delays, do not despair! Unless an immigration judge ends your status as a legal permanent resident and despite your physical green card expiring, you are still a legal permanent resident. Your status, unlike your green card, does not end after the card’s expiration date. If your green card is expiring and you need evidence of your immigration status, you may contact USCIS and request an “Infopass” appointment. These are short appointments where you can meet with an USCIS officer and request evidence of your current status. This would often times be on the form of an I-551 stamp on your passport, so make sure your passport is not expired! By the way, your green card is also an I-551! Just look in the back of the card!

The I-551 passport stamp is usually placed using red ink and is filled out with additional information (such as validity dates) and is something you can show your employer, Customs and Border Protection officers after a trip abroad, and any agency requesting evidence of your status. The challenge, however, may be to get your actual Infopass appointment. Given the current pandemic, you may be required to have a very pressing reason for USCIS to schedule your appointment. This could be an impeding emergency trip abroad or needing evidence of your status in order to keep your job.

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