The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) proposed a fee increase to access immigration records from the first half of the 20th century.
The Washington Post reported that the fees to access citizenship and alien registration files, visa applications and other records about immigrants from the early 1900s will nearly triple. In some instances, it might increase by 500% from $130 to $625 to obtain just one piece of paper from the government’s Genealogy Program. The program is run by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“USCIS is required to examine incoming and outgoing expenditures, just like a business, and make adjustments based on that analysis,” the USCIS said in a brief statement in response to criticism regarding the fee increases.
There is no set date for the fees to take effect but the window for public comment closes on Dec. 16.
Jennifer Mendelsohn, a Baltimore journalist and genealogist, has extensively used the records from the USCIS Genealogy Program to learn more about her family’s immigration path from Russia to the U.S. in the 1800s.
Mendelsohn told the Post the fee hikes are indicative of the Trump administration’s “antagonist stance” on immigration and worries this move means the White House could place fee hikes on more recent records.
“What’s frustrating to me is that we have no other recourse,” Mendelsohn told the Post. “There is no other way to get this information. … If they can do this to these records, they can do this to any records. It’s incumbent upon us to speak up and try to stop this.”
The Post reported that the fees tripled back in 2016 in order to cover the costs of the Genealogy Program, puzzling many genealogists as to why the fees would increase again.
“What could possibly have changed in three years to warrant such a huge increase?” Rich Venezia, a Pittsburgh-based professional genealogist, told the Post.