While the last few years have certainly been a mixed bag for US immigration, with rafts of changes and a distinct ideological shift in the leadership of the country, last year marked an 11-year high for successful citizenship approvals. There were 834,000 successful US citizenship applicants in 2019, though this is likely to be heavily reduced in 2020 (mostly due to the COVID-19 outbreak). It is a sign that despite the leanings of the president, America is still very much a welcoming destination for those who wish to make it their home.
Well, as you may imagine, several changes are being introduced in 2020. We have looked at a number of the main immigration headlines for 2020 below. While many of these changes have been planned, it is likely that the COVID-19 global pandemic is going to mean that new rules will come into force once the outbreak is controlled. It is therefore imperative that you keep up to date with the changes as and when they happen, so you can make the right immigration choices if you are looking to relocate to the US.
It has been announced that there will be fee increases for many USCIS applications. While the reasoning for the changes are unclear, many of fees have been increased significantly such as; increased fee by more than 80% rise in an application for citizenship through naturalization, and marriage-based green cards applied for within the UK increase by 56%. While fees have been rising steadily over recent years, 2020's increases have accelerated the rise which has steepened since 2016.
One of the more surprising announcements from the USCIS is the introduction of a $50 fee for an asylum application. The vast majority of countries do not charge for cases of humanitarian protection. The move makes the US one of only 4 countries in the world that charges asylum applicants to claim humanitarian protection.
The addition of a fee in the case of some of the world's most vulnerable people is likely to be a major cause for concern and will be fiercely contested by human rights groups across the globe. Indeed, charities within the US, such as the immigration charity boundless have attacked the move saying Once again, this administration is attempting to use every tool at its disposal to restrict legal immigration and even U.S. citizenship. It also accused the government of weaponizing immigration fees.
Another significant change that has been announced by the USCIS is the tightening of the US citizenship test. The rule changes have been ordered after a comprehensive review of the current examination, which highlighted the need for change. Now the test will ensure that applicants can read, write, and speak basic English as well as having a comprehensive knowledge of US history and its government. This test is in keeping with many other countries and ensures that those who wish to live in the country can converse in the country's language day-to-day, as well as having a sound understanding of the way the country's government works.
In addition to the changes made to the current US citizenship test, there is also an expansion of the acts that prevent applicants from being considered to have a good moral character. This is an important factor in the consideration of citizenship applications, and it is no doubt going to prevent a large number of applicants from being able to successfully apply to become a US citizen. The additions include failure to pay or file taxes, bail jumping, and bank fraud. With all this in mind, it is important to take into account your legal background if you intend to either move to the US or become a US citizen. The US is one of the world's strictest countries from an immigration standpoint, and it is vital that you seek advice if you are looking to move to or settle in the US.
As we discussed earlier on the USCIS's fee increases, there has been an addition of a $50 application fee for those seeking to make an application for asylum in the US. The controversial step, which makes the US one of only four countries in the world to charge for asylum applications, is part of a wider array of changes that appear to be an attempt at dissuading asylum seekers from choosing the US as their destination. Of course, due to the US's unique geographical location and quality of life, it is the natural choice for many who are seeking humanitarian protection, many of whom come from poor living conditions with little or no government support.
In more bad news for asylum seekers, the US is also planning to remove the current 30-day timeline for a work permit application to be granted or refused. There is also the suggestion that the rules will be amended to automatically deny work permit applications of asylum seekers if they entered the country illegally. This change would be extremely damaging, as many asylum seekers enter the country illegally, in a desperate attempt to gain humanitarian protection. The USCIS also wishes to immediately terminate the work permit of an asylum seeker if their claim for protection is refused.
While the good news is that the US appears to be adding more citizens than ever before, the deep tightening of immigration rules is concerning. It is clear that the ideology of the government is heavily influencing immigration decisions, and there is a concerted effort to reduce inward migration. What is clear is that if you want to move to the US, it will be harder and more expensive than ever.
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