• Linda MacIver

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Proposes Significant Fee Increases

Updated: Feb 3


Their fees were increased three years ago. Now they propose for, in some cases, as much as a 629% increase.

We at MGC try to keep our members and supporters appraised of important government activities that will impact their ability to do historical research and genealogy. This is one of those topics. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has proposed significant fee increases for the types of records that genealogists request.


Fee increases like these must first be published in the Federal Register and public comments must be taken. We are forwarding a letter from a group organizing to let genealogists know about the fee increase. The letter explains where to find important information and how to make a comment.


We don't often ask for your help, but this is a serious issue and a community-wide response is needed. We’ve heard that the deadline for comments has been extended until December 30th, 2019. It’s not too late to add your concerns to those of many other genealogists. Every voice will help.


If you decide to make a comment on the Federal Register website, take a copy of the comment and forward it to your own Senators and Representative. Their offices will keep the heat on USCIS until a fair resolution is found.


Sincerely,

Linda B. MacIver

Federal Civil Records Director

fedrecords@massgencouncil.org


* THE CALL TO ACTION FOLLOWS *



Wed, Nov 20, 2019 at 8:53 AM


Friends and colleagues --


I'm asking for your assistance in submitting a public comment about an outrageous proposed fee hike for access to historical records.


The Genealogy Program of U. S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) holds five record sets of extreme value to any of us researching 19th- or 20th-century immigrant ancestors. It currently costs $65 for an index search and $65 for a copy of the records. (From 2008 - 2016, it cost $20 for an index search and either $20 or $35 for a record. Before 2008, requests for these records was handled through FOIA.)


Last week, as part of proposed fee hikes across the board, USCIS proposed a whopping 492% increase to their fees for the Genealogy Program's records - making an index search $240 (with a copy of a record if already digitized), and an additional $385 if the record is only available in paper form. $625 total, if requesting a paper record!


Several genealogists and records access advocates have put more information about this at https://www.recordsnotrevenue.com/. You can also learn more about the types of records USCIS holds at this link. Our main concerns are access, transparency, and efficiency. Big points of concern are the fact that there is extremely limited information on identifying the costs of the program (i.e., where is all this money actually going?!), and also that millions of these records should already be freely publicly accessible at the National Archies, as per their records schedules duly signed by USCIS or INS officials in the past.


USCIS is accepting public comments on this proposal, and I urge each and every one of you to take the time to make your voice heard. This should be of concern to all of us, even if you don't use these records. If one government agency gets away with a 500% fee increase for historical records - who's to say others won't follow suit?


What can you do? Make your voice heard in 3 easy steps:


Step 1: Review the proposed rule here, and jump to the Genealogy Program section here. (It takes a few seconds to find the Genealogy Program section as the page loads.)


Step 2: Write your comments, addressing the issues listed here or any issue you think is important. See https://www.recordsnotrevenue.com/ for thoughts on how to begin.


Step 3Send your comments BEFORE 16 DECEMBER 2019. Extended to 30 December 2019 UPDATE: Extended to 10 February 2020.

  • Federal Rulemaking Portal and refer to "DHS Docket No. USCIS-2019-0010" and follow instructions for submitting comments; and

  • Send a copy of your comments to your US Senators and Representative, and refer to DHS Docket No. USCIS-2019-0010. Tell them you care about preserving access to federal records!

Thanks for your time and concern. If you want to stay informed of this effort, sign up at https://forms.gle/7A4addv9K4T44Hfq5. We won't use your email address for any other purpose.


Please share this information with your clients, genealogical societies, and every researcher you know. If we can get public comments just regarding the Genealogy Program numbering in the thousands, USCIS has no choice but to address those concerns. Feel free to use the #recordsnotrevenue when sharing this campaign.


If anyone has any questions on this, I'd be happy to field them.


Thanks for reading; now *please* go submit a comment.


In Solidarity,

Rich Venezia

Pittsburgh, PA

Rich Venezia <rich@richroots.net>

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Post Office Box 5393, Cochituate, MA 01778

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