USCIS to Raise Fees for Genealogy Information

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is planning to raise the fees for immigration information that many genealogists seek out in order to learn more about their ancestors. The fee increase could potentially put that important information out of reach for many genealogists.

The USCIS is a genealogy program that allows genealogists, family historians, and other researchers to obtain citizenship and alien registration files, visa applications, and other records documenting the lives of deceased immigrants who arrived in the United States between the late 19th and 20th centuries. According to the Seattle Times, the fees for these records would nearly triple, rising nearly 500 percent, from $130 to $625 to obtain a single paper file.

It is unclear why the USCIS feels the need to increase the fees so much.

The rule about the increased fees was posted to the Federal Register on November 11, 2019. The USCIS was accepting comments about the fee increase before December 16, 2019. That said, the document states that the effective date for the fee change rule was October 1, 2019, which is the start of fiscal year (FY) 2020.

The Seattle Times points out that the files on an ancestor can sometimes include hundreds of pages, documenting waits at Ellis Island at the turn of the century. It can also include Japanese, Italians, and Germans who lived in the United States during World War II, and FBI reports about immigrants friends, family, and political activities.

There is some good news for genealogists who cannot afford to pay the increased fees. Some of the USCIS files are scheduled to be transferred to the National Archives. Genealogists can view things that are available at the National Archives for free. The sad news is that not all of the USCIS files will be transferred over, and there is no other place to obtain them from.

Related Articles at

MyHeritage has Ellis Island Passenger Lists

Your Ancestors Were Immigrants

A Brief History of United States Immigration Policy

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