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29 November 2019

Speak Out Against Exorbitant Fees: Deadline is December 16

color chart
A chart showing how the proposed fees for 2020 compare historically.
Click to enlarge.

The genealogy world is abuzz with news that U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) has proposed a sharp increase in fees for searches and copies of genealogical and historical records, beginning in 2020. The USCIS Genealogy Program describes itself as "a fee-for-service program that provides researchers with timely access to historical immigration and naturalization records of deceased immigrants." The records include naturalization certificates, alien registration forms, visa and registry files, and alien files (A-Files), all invaluable resources for researchers.

The bureau already charges a nonrefundable $65 fee per search. It proposes to raise that search fee to an exorbitant $240an increase of 269 percent. A copy of a paper file would incur an additional $385 chargean increase of 492 percent! By charging these extraordinary fees, USCIS would effectively deny access to thousands of genealogists. This will have a tremendous impact on anyone engaging in 20th century immigration research, and would be detrimental to all who wish to understand our history.

The CGS Board of Directors urges you to join the larger genealogy community by registering your opposition to the proposed changes. This is an uphill battle, and only with thousands of comments submitted will we have a chance to change these proposed fees. A group of researchers have created the website Records, Not Revenue which has instructions on how to submit a comment. You are encouraged also to send a copy of your comments to your Congressional representatives. Be sure to mention you are writing about the genealogy program, as the fee increase relates to all aspects of USCIS. Comments must be submitted no later than Monday, December 16. Please take a moment now to share your concern, and notify everyone you know.

Records, Not Revenue website: 

Some other blogs posting about this issue:

Dick Eastman Genealogy 
Judy Russell (The Legal Genealogist)
Linda Harms Okazaki
Jennifer Mendelsohn 
The Chinese Exclusion Files 
American Immigration Lawyers Association

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