The Utah Genealogical Association (UGA) strongly opposes the proposed fee increase for the Genealogy Program under the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as reported in the Federal Register on November 14, 2019. The current proposal is to increase the search fee from $65 to $240 and then the cost of a paper file from $65 to $385. This means the overall charge for genealogists to obtain A-Files, Visa Files, Registry Files, and some C-Files would be $625 per record provided the file number is unknown ($240 file index search plus $385 for the record itself). This is unaffordable to many genealogists, which means the records would be inaccessible to them. The Genealogy Program is essential for family historians seeking citizenship and alien records of deceased immigrants who arrived in the United States between the late 19th and mid-20th centuries.
UGA is proud of our state’s interest in heritage, family history research, and records access. From our earliest pioneer settlers to our modern residents, Utah and its people have always cared about preserving historical records and making them accessible and affordable. We applaud Senator Mitt Romney for speaking out on this subject and asking USCIS to reconsider its proposal. (https://www.romney.senate.gov/romney-expresses-concern-about-500-fee-increase-obtain-genealogy-records)
We recognize that there are costs involved with preserving and retrieving genealogical records, and we do not oppose organizations charging modest fees to cover these costs. However, we stand by our belief that records should be accessible and available to researchers, and we feel that exorbitant fees to access genealogical records hurt those who are trying to use and preserve them. We encourage record repositories to promote, not prohibit, access to their genealogical records.
UGA’s mission includes providing genealogical information on state, national, and international family history topics. As such, we feel it is our duty to speak out on this urgent matter and call our members to immediate action. We call on USCIS to carefully consider any proposed fee increases, making sure they would not unduly burden those who need access to their records. We respectfully request USCIS to reduce the proposed fee to one that is comparable to the fees of other repositories, such as the National Archives. We also request USCIS to transfer all files eligible for transfer to the National Archives, where they would be more accessible to those who need them.
We invite our members and residents of our state to make your voices heard on this topic. Please visit Records Not Revenue and submit public comments on the proposed rule in the hopes that USCIS will reconsider. Please also send a letter to your congressman, asking for his or her support. We invite you to also thank Senator Mitt Romney for leading the discussion on this important issue.
UGA Executive Committee
Kelly Summers, AG, UGA President
Elizabeth Miller, UGA First Vice President
Tristan Tolman, AG, UGA Second Vice President