INS Plans $130 Fee for Political Asylum Applications


Inundated with applications from political asylum seekers, the Immigration and Naturalization Service intends to impose an unprecedented $130 fee on applicants and to delay their eligibility for work permits.

An INS official said Wednesday that the money from the fee would allow the agency to double the 150 agents assigned to processing the claims, which are flowing into INS offices at the rate of 10,000 a month.

The agency also hopes that the fee, coupled with a 150-day delay in the issuance of work permits, would discourage some applications.


The proposed regulation changes, approved by Atty. Gen. Janet Reno, also require the approval of the Office of Management and Budget--expected in about two weeks--and are subject to a 60-day public comment period before they can be put into effect.

The INS official, who asked not to be identified, said the proposal has sparked considerable debate within the Clinton Administration because it represents a stark departure from past practices and from the procedures in other nations.

No other country charges a fee to political asylum seekers and the United States has never before levied one.

But the INS official said a backlog of more than 350,000 applications has left little choice.

“It has come down to the reality of getting the additional money for stepping up the asylum process or risk never gaining control of the system,” the official said.

Because of the application backlog, legitimate asylum seekers cannot get their cases adjudicated quickly, while others whose claims ultimately would be denied are able to enter the country on a temporary basis, obtain work permits and remain for long periods of time before they are located and deported.


The United States grants political asylum to victims of persecution or people with a legitimate fear of persecution on political, religious or racial grounds. Typically, work permits are issued to applicants while their cases are under review.

Last year, the agency approved slightly more than 5,000 applications while denying about 18,000.

INS officials said people who could not afford the fee would not necessarily be denied entry.

“There would have to be some sort of provision to consider people who don’t have the fee,” he said. “You can’t expect everyone on a boat from Haiti to have $130 with them.”