USCIS Proposes Fee Increases for Genealogy Records

The following message was posted to the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies,  (IAJGS) mailing list by Jan Meisels Allen and is republished here with her permission:

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced through the Federal Register that they intend to increase the request fees charged by them, including for genealogy services.  Currently, the G-1041 Index Search Request is $65 and form G-1041A Genealogy Records Request is $65. The USCIS proposes to raise the fees to $240 and $385 respectively.  These are a 269 percent and 492 percent change respectively (if I did my math correctly).  They are based on the projected costs and volumes of the genealogy program. The search fee is non-refundable if nothing is found in their search. The projected costs include a portion of Lockbox costs and an estimated staffing requirement for genealogy workload.

Under the provision of Regulatory Flexibity Act (page 62338) it states the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “does not have sufficient data on the requestors that file genealogy forms, Forms G–1041 and G– 1041A, to determine whether such filings were made by entities or individuals and thus is unable to determine if the fee increase for genealogy searches is likely to have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.” Comments on the impact of increase on fees on small entities is for the public to comment.  DHS was not able to determine the numbers of regional centers or genealogy requestors that would be considered small entities. DHS has previously determined that requests for historical records are usually made by individuals. If professional genealogists and researchers submitted such requests in the past, they did not identify themselves as commercial requestors and thus could not be segregated in the data. Genealogists typically advise clients on how to submit their own requests. For those that submit requests on behalf of clients, DHS does not know the extent to which they can pass along the fee increases to their individual clients. Therefore, DHS does not currently have sufficient data to definitively assess the estimate of small entities for these requests.

Their rationale is after 10 years of operating the genealogy program with the ultimate goal to provide the search results and records more quickly when pre-existing digital records exist. They propose to encourage requestors to submit the electronic versions of Form G-1041 and Form G-1041 through the online portal at https://www.uscis.gov/genealogy, thereby reducing the administrative burden to USCIS. Requestors that cannot submit the forms electronically may still submit paper copies of both forms with the required filing fees.

Under the current system, a requestor fills out the search form, G-1041, pays the fee and waits to learn if records are found. If they are found, then the requestor must complete form G1041-A and pay the fee. What is being proposed, is USCIS to provide the requestor with those pre-existing digital records, if they exist, in response to the initial search request.  Records Index Search and provide the pre- existing digital records to either an electronic reading room that can be accessed with a unique pin number, by mail with a CD, or paper copy and not require Form G–1041A. If no records exist, or if only paper copies of the records exist, then the requestor must follow the current process.  With this new proposed changed USCIS plans to use from G-1041-A Genealogy Records Request to only paper file requests. Consistent with current practices, requestors must still pay the genealogy records request fee for a paper record requested. USCIS believes the change will increase efficiency and decrease future wait times for requestors.

The notice compares work volume from FY 2016/2017 the projected workload receipts for G-1041 the search request was 3,605 and projected for FY 2019/2020 4,650 an increase of 1, 045 requests.  For form G-1041A the records request, FY 2016-2017 was 2,410 and for FY 20192020 the projection is 2,550 or an increase of 140 records requestsFees must be remitted from a bank or other institution located in the United States and payable in U.S. Currency.

To read the proposed rule see:

https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2019-11-14/pdf/2019-24366.pdf

The Genealogy section is Section N which starts on page 62315-62316.

See Section 103.40 for Genealogical Research Requests on page 62359.

There are fees with DACA renewals with and without ICE transfers and I do not know why there are genealogy requests tied to DACA renewal fees (page 62329, 62331).

See page 62343 (e) for Genealogy requests for their rationale for recovering costs of the program even though they do no know if there are professional genealogists or individuals requesting the records. They acknowledge that with their proposed electronic request form there may be a reduced administrative costs. DHS requests comments from the public on the impacts to small entities of the proposed fee increases to the genealogy forms.

This is a 92 page proposed rule the remainder does not affect genealogy.

Written comments must be submitted on or before December 16, 2019.  Comments must be identified by DHS Docket No. USCIS– 2019–0010 by one of the following methods:

    • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov
    • By Mail: Samantha Deshommes, Chief, Regulatory Coordination Division, Office of Policy and Strategy, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security, 20 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Mailstop #2140, Washington, DC 20529–2140.

No hand delivered or couriered comments will be accepted. Nor will they accept anything on digital medial storage devices such as CDs/DVDs or USB drives.

Effective date is influenced by the FY 2020 which began on October 1,2019 there fore it may affect the second year of the biennial period.

Jan Meisels Allen

Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

6 Comments

And what does all this mean in plain English, Dick? And what records by USCIS?

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Poorly written. Some sentences don’t make sense. Not sure if this is the fault of IAGS’s summary, or the original text. Or both. In any case, the announcement is unintelligible.

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Here is an overview of the records available by USCIS Genealogy program: https://www.uscis.gov/history-and-genealogy/genealogy/historical-records-series-available-genealogy-program
I am working with several other genealogists to create suggested talking points and a plan of action. We hope to have that ready by Monday. I will send it to you, Dick.

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Briefly, what this means is DHS is going to increase fees by 269% and 492%. Our greedy government in action. OMG. And the ties to DACA are interesting. Why??? Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

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This fee increase seems to be directed at those who are alive now and require information about their living family members.

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