Immigration Application Fees to Rise

Immigration application fees that were lowered three weeks ago will go up again under the $397.4 billion spending bill Congress just passed.

The bill, passed Thursday, sets no timetable for the change.

The decision will allow the Immigration and Naturalization Service to resume financing services for asylum seekers and applicants for refugee status, to be paid by surcharges included in application fees for other immigration benefits.

Historically, people making asylum or refugee claims have not paid application fees.

Immigration advocates long have argued that it is unfair for immigrants to bear the cost of asylum and refugee services. Instead they have wanted lawmakers to provide money in the budget for the services.

Last session, when Congress passed the law creating the Homeland Security Department, it prohibited use of fee money for asylum and refugee services failed to provide another source of money. Advocates have been uncertain whether the lawmakers' omission was intentional.

After that decision was heavily criticized, Congress returned to the fee system.

Immigration advocates worry that immigrants may become confused by the changing fee schedule and find their applications rejected because they include too little or not enough money.

Judy Golub, a spokeswoman for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said, "We need people to spend their attention, time and effort on doing things that need to be done, not this kind of effort that leads to confusion and chaos in the field."

INS spokesman Bill Strassberger said the agency is reviewing the new law.