U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Plans to Raise Fees to Access Records

Historians and genealogists may soon have to pay more to access critical records about immigrant history housed under the department of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The department announced plans to increase the fees for obtaining immigration files as much as 500%. As of now, it costs about $65 to put in a search request for files and another $65 to receive the records. The fee hike may make these costs go up to as much as $240 and $385, respectively. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services proposed the raised fees after a biennial review determined that the current fees do not cover the full cost of providing adjudication and naturalization services. The fee increases will not only effect researchers, but also individuals applying for green cards while in the United States (with fees going from $750 to $1,120) and those applying for naturalization ($640 raised to $1,170). These raised fees may make it so that only the wealthy can fulfill the legal requirements for immigration.

Genealogist Renée Carl told WHYY that the proposed fees are redundant and would limit access to records that are especially important for populations affected by discriminatory immigration laws implemented by the United States. “It’s already expensive for records that should be at the National Archives. Many of these records should be at National Archives and free for people to access,” she said.

December 3o is the deadline to submit a comment to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on the proposed fee increases.