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INS Work on Asylum Bids To Continue
Washington Post
January 24, 2003

By George Lardner Jr.

Immigration officials said yesterday that they will continue to process requests for asylum and refugee status despite the sudden loss of fees that have been used for years to pay for the program.

The funds came from surcharges tacked on to the fees charged for other immigration benefits, but these were eliminated under the Homeland Security Act that goes into effect today.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service will charge reduced rates for processing applications for such items as work permits and green cards under a regulation to be published in today's Federal Register. Justice Department officials had insisted on putting it into effect immediately despite requests to delay its implementation until Congress can restore the surcharges.

INS spokesman Bill Strassberger said the agency has enough money in the bank from the surcharges, amounting to perhaps $125 million, to keep processing new refugee and asylum applications for now.

"You could look on this as a 'going out of business' sale," one INS official said of the agency's impending shift to the new Homeland Security Department. "We could put a sign in the window, '25 percent off.' "

That will be the average reduction in fees. The charge for a green card application will shrink from $255 to $186; the fee for a work permit will be reduced from $120 to $88; and the charge for naturalization papers will be cut from $260 to $188.

Strassberger said immigrants who inadvertently pay the higher fees will get refunds. He said those who pay the lower fees will not be expected to pay for the difference if the rates go back up.

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