From LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson, JD, LLM, CG®, CGL℠
President, Board for Certification of Genealogists
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is proposing a nearly 500% increase in fees for record searches and records provided through its Genealogy Program. A search to determine what records are held would increase from $65 to $240, and for copies of paper records from $65 to $385. Thus, locating and obtaining a single record, such as a visa file, would increase from a total of $130 to $625.
Particularly since so many of these records should be readily accessible at the National Archives and yet are either restricted or have not been released at all to NARA, the fee increase is simply unacceptable.
The rule can be reviewed online at the Federal Register website (https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/11/14/2019-24366/us-citizenship-and-immigration-services-fee-schedule-and-changes-to-certain-other-immigration#p-587) and the public may submit comments via the online portal (https://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=USCIS-2019-0010-0001) or through the mail.
USCIS is required to review, consider, and respond to these public comments in its final rule. This means that the genealogical community has a real chance to make a difference if enough people can submit public comments about their thoughts on this increase. BCG will be addressing this as an organization in conjunction with the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC) and other genealogy stakeholders.
BCG encourages individuals to speak up, both directly to USCIS and to their Congressional representatives. If you submit a comment via the online portal please mention USCIS genealogy program, otherwise your comment will be put in the general comments pool about fee hikes. The deadline for comments is December 16, 2019.
You can read more about this at the Records Not Revenue website (https://www.recordsnotrevenue.com/) and in various blog posts. For example, Judy Russell, JD, CG®,CGL℠ has written about this (see https://www.legalgenealogist.com/2019/11/21/records-not-revenue/), and there is additional information available at Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter (see https://blog.eogn.com/2019/11/15/uscis-proposes-fee-increases-for-genealogy-records/ and https://blog.eogn.com/2019/11/21/more-on-uscis-proposes-fee-increases-for-genealogy-records/).
The words Certified Genealogist and letters CG are registered certification marks, and the designations CGL and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.