Oppose the USCIS fee hikes

The genealogical community has a little more time as it’s mobilizing to fight the extraordinary fee increases proposed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency for its Genealogy Program and the records provided under it.

As The Legal Genealogist has written before,1 a USCIS proposal would raise fees for all records and documents produced by its Genealogy Program dramatically.

If this rule is adopted, the cost of getting a record search done at USCIS — the first step that lets us know if the agency actually holds records about a research target — will rise from $65 to $240, and only digital records will be provided for that one fee. The cost of getting a paper record identified in that record search, such as a visa file, will rise from $65 to $385. So a record that, today, costs a maximum of $130 will cost no less than $240 and as much as $625 if this rule goes into effect.

This is unsupportable — there’s simply no justification for this fee hike.

And it’s unconscionable — it puts basic genealogical records out of the reach of the average American.

Every voice needs to be heard — and we have a little more time to make sure all of our voices are heard.

The deadline for comments on this proposal has been extended to December 30, 2019. That’s better than the December 16 deadline originally announced, but it still leaves us only a little more than two weeks to act.

So speak out, folks. Speak out!

Speak out

Here’s how to speak out:

First: read the proposed rule that changes the fees (it’s online at the Federal Register here, and the section on the fees in the Genealogy Program begins on page 587 here).

Second: Put together your thoughts about why this proposed fee hike is a bad idea. You can look at the Records, Not Revenue website for more information about this and ideas about what to include. You can also read the comments that have already been posted about this proposal at the online portal of the Federal Register here. (You can search within the comments for the word “genealogy” to see what others are saying about these specific fees.) Write it out and have it ready to upload (the comment system is online, or you can comment in writing by mail). Be sure to specifically mention that you’re commenting on the fees for the Genealogy Program. Otherwise the comment may be lost in the mass of comments opposing other proposed fee increases.

Third: Post your comment to the online Federal Register comment system here. The reference number is DHS Docket No. USCIS-2019-0010 — make sure to follow all the instructions, and then check on the Federal Register portal comment page to be sure yours posted.

Fourth: Send a copy of your comments to the two United States Senators from your state and to the member of the House of Representatives for your district. You can get names and contact information for your Senators at Senate.gov and for your House member at House.gov.

Fifth and last: Recruit your fellow genealogists-librarians-historians-researchers-news media friends to join in. This impacts all researchers — and we need to stand together on this.

After you’ve commented, if you’d like to stay informed on this issue, you can sign up for updates at Records, Not Revenue.

Let me add one more bit about why to speak out.

Some folks in our community think this isn’t an issue that affects them, because their ancestry is all colonial or before the Civil War and so they’re not going to need these records.

But records access is an issue that affects us all.

When any government agency begins to put public records out of the reach of the public, it impacts our entire community. We’re all entitled to reasonable access to all public records — and this fee increase isn’t reasonable.

Let’s work together on this — all of us.

Speak out. Now. That deadline will be on us sooner than we’d like.


Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “A little more time,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 13 Dec 2019).

SOURCES

  1. See Judy G. Russell, “Records, not revenue,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 21 Nov 2019, and “Fight the fee hikes,” posted 2 Dec 2019 (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 13 Dec 2019).
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