Nonprofits Can Speak Up for Immigrant Communities by Advocating Against USCIS’s Proposed Fee Increase
On January 4, 2023, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) proposed to increase fees on certain applications, including naturalization, family-sponsored and employment-based visas, and other immigration benefits. This fee increase would make the cost of immigration services higher and more burdensome on already struggling families. For more information on the proposed fee rule, click here, and check out USCIS’s frequently asked questions page.
The Good News? Your Nonprofit CAN Advocate for Lower Fees!
Nonprofits (including public charities) have several avenues of advocacy to create change in their communities and influence public policy, including administrative advocacy and lobbying. Public charities can lobby, though the amount of lobbying they can do is limited by the Internal Revenue Code (tax code). But it’s important to remember that not all advocacy efforts meet the tax code’s definition of lobbying.
The tax code generally includes attempts to influence legislation at all levels of government in its definition of lobbying that applies to public charities using the “insubstantial part test” to measure their lobbying limits. For 501(h) electing public charities, lobbying is more narrowly described as either direct or grassroots. Direct lobbying is defined as communication with a legislator that expresses a view on specific legislation, whereas grassroots lobbying is defined as communication with the general public that expresses a view on specific legislation with a call to action.
In contrast, administrative advocacy involves influencing the rules government agencies use to implement and enforce already existing laws. Because an administrative body is simply interpreting and applying a law that the legislature already passed (not focused on specific legislation), administrative advocacy will not count toward a public charity’s lobbying limit. As such, these organizations can do an unlimited amount of advocacy on administrative rules, regulations, and other administrative actions if they have the unrestricted funding necessary to do so.
Administrative advocacy in action can look like: providing commentary during the regulatory process, calling for enforcement of existing laws, and advocating for or against executive orders. According to the tax code, advocating against the proposed rule to increase USCIS fees is not lobbying, it’s administrative advocacy, and therefore can be done in an unlimited amount.
Public Comment Period
If the proposed rule is implemented, fees will not change until the final rule goes into effect, which cannot happen until (1) the public has had a chance to comment and (2) USCIS has had a chance to finalize the fee schedule in response to the public’s comments. Increased fees may be detrimental and harmful to our immigrant communities, so it’s important to chime in if this issue can impact the communities you serve. Visit the National Partnership for New American’s (NPNA) page to learn more about how you can take action.
See chart below for some of the proposed fee increases:
|Form/Visa Type||Current Fee||Proposed Fee||Percent Change|
|I-129, E or TN||$460||$1,015||121|
|H-1B electronic registration fee||$10||$215||2,050|
|I-485, adjustment (with biometric services)||$1,225||$1,540||26|
|I-485 and I-131 (with biometric services)||$1,225||$2,170||77|
|I-485, I-131, and I-765 (filed on paper) with biometric services||$1,225||$2,820||130|
For a full comparison of the current fees and proposed fees, click here (starting at page 407).
Comments opposing the proposed rule must be submitted on or before March 6, 2023. You can submit a comment using this link.
See CLINIC’s statement on the proposed rule here.
For more information on federal rulemaking and public participation check out this resource published by ILRC (an Alliance for Justice member).