Jan Meisels Allen
Last November, 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 proposed to raise the fees to $240 and $385 respectively. These were a 269 percent and 492 percent change respectively.
The USCIS published the final rule on July 31 which will become effective on October 2, 2020. These fee increases range from 146 to 308 percent—still quite substantial.
See: https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2020-16389.pdf. The final rule covers more than genealogy and is quite long –over 570 pages. I did a word search for the term “genealogy: and the following have information of interest for genealogist. The fees portion are included on pages 16-17. Other items of interest are included on pages: 179, 187-203; 415, 419, 428-429; 433-434, 436, 438, 446-448, 461-463, 475, 511-513, 530, 532.
The USCIS comments in response to genealogical concerns about the proposed fee increase includes:” The proposed increase reflected changes in USCIS’ methodology for estimating the costs of the genealogy program to improve the accuracy of its estimates. In response to public comments on the proposed genealogy fee increases, USCIS further refined the methodology used to estimate genealogy program costs. Based on the refined methodology, this final rule establishes a fee for Form G-1041, Genealogy Index Search Request, when filed online as $160 and $170 when filed on paper. Using the same methodology refinement, DHS establishes a fee for Form G-1041A, Genealogy Records Request, when filed online as $255 and $265 when filed by paper.” They further rationalized the genealogy fee increase by,” INA section 1356(t)(1) authorizes DHS to set the genealogy fee for providing genealogy research and information services at a level that will ensure the recovery of the costs of providing genealogy services separate from other adjudication and naturalization service’s fees. USCIS must estimate the costs of the genealogy program because it does not have a discrete genealogy program operating budget. Nor does USCIS discretely identify and track genealogy program expenditures. The same office that researches genealogy requests, the National Records Center, also performs other functions, such as FOIA operations, retrieving, storing, and moving files. In the FY 2016/2017 fee rule, DHS estimated the costs of the genealogy program indirectly using projected volumes and other information. The projected costs included a portion of Lockbox costs, genealogy contracts, and other costs related to the division that handles genealogy, FOIA, and similar USCIS workloads.” They also responded to one of the genealogy submitters: “USCIS receives fewer than 10,000 genealogy requests each year, so the fees should not affect hundreds of thousands of people as the commenter mentions.”
They also commented on the electronic version of records,: “DHS is expanding the use of electronic genealogy requests to encourage requesters to use the electronic versions of Form G-1041 and Form G–1041A. DHS is changing the search request process so that USCIS may provide requesters with electronic records, if they exist, in response to the initial index request. These final changes may reduce the time it takes to request and receive genealogy records, and, in some cases, it will eliminate the need to make multiple search requests and submit separate fees. Moreover, DHS notes that providing digital records in response to a Form G-1041 request may reduce the number of Form G-1041A requests that will be filed because there would already be a copy of the record if it was previously digitized. As a result, the volume of Form G-1041A requests USCIS receives may decrease, though DHS is unable to estimate by how much. .. DHS recognizes that some small entities may be impacted by these increased fees but cannot determine how many or the exact impact. “
Another response to the fees regarding genealogists, professional and hobbyists:” DHS does not have sufficient data on the requestors for the genealogy forms, Forms G-1041 and G-1041A, to determine if entities or individuals submitted these requests. 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 therefore could not be segregated within the pool of 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. DHS assumes genealogists have access to a computer and the Internet.”
Note: DHS stands for Department of Homeland Security of which USCIS is under.
They further commented, “Based on DHS records for calendar years 2013 to 2017, there was an annual average of 3,840 genealogy index search requests made using Form G-1041 and there was an annual average of 2,152 genealogy records requests made using Form G-1041A. DHS does not have sufficient data on the requestors for the genealogy forms to determine if entities or individuals submitted these requests.”
While they reduced the fees for genealogy from what was originally proposed by reassigning the National Records Center cost that do not directly apply to genealogy, and it now allows for a $10 reduction in filing fee for applicants who file online for forms that are electronically available by USCIS rather than submit paper applications.
As with the proposed fee increase USCIS still maintains, “DHS is unable to estimate the number of G-1041 index searches and G-1041A records requests considered small; however, some will receive a reduced fee and savings, by filing online. Therefore, DHS does not currently have sufficient data on the requestors for the genealogy forms to definitively assess the estimate of small entities for these requests. DHS is unable to estimate by how much because DHS does not know how many individuals will have access to a computer and/or internet capability. The case management tracking system used by DHS for genealogy requests does not allow for requestor data to be readily pulled.”
For a Genealogy Records Request, requests for copies of historical records or files must: (1) Identify the record by number or other specific data used by the Genealogy Program Office to retrieve the record as follows: (i) C-Files must be identified by a naturalization certificate number. (ii) Forms AR-2 and A-Files numbered below 8 million must be identified by Alien Registration Number. (iii) Visa Files must be identified by the Visa File Number. Registry Files must be identified by the Registry File Number (for example, R-12345).
Information required for release of records. (1) Documentary evidence must be attached to a Genealogy Records Request or submitted in accordance with the instructions on the Genealogy Records Request form. (2) Search subjects will be presumed deceased if their birth dates are more than 100 years before the date of the request. In other cases, the subject is presumed to be living until the requestor establishes to the satisfaction of USCIS that the subject is deceased. (3) Documentary evidence of the subject's death is required (including but not limited to death records, published obituaries or eulogies, published death notices, church or bible records, photographs of gravestones, and/or copies of official documents relating to payment of death benefits).
Fees must be remitted from a bank or other institution located in the United States and payable in U.S. currency. The fee must be paid using the method that USCIS prescribes for the request, office, filing method, or filing location, as provided in the form instructions or by individual notice.
If you want to place an order this would be the more cost-efficient time to do so. The forms may be found at: https://www.uscis.gov/genealogy
To see previous postings about the USCIS and the fee increases, go to the archives of the IAJGS Records Access Alert at: http://lists.iajgs.org/mailman/private/records-access-alerts/. You must be registered to access the archives. To register go to: http://lists.iajgs.org/mailman/listinfo/records-access-alerts and follow the instructions to enter your email address, full name and which genealogical organization with whom you are affiliated You will receive an email response that you have to reply to or the subscription will not be finalized.
Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee