Letter: Unreasonable fee increase for genealogical research

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Editor of the Reformer,

Thinking that hell would freeze over first, I finally agree with Deb Billado, chairwoman of the Vermont GOP, in her Dec. 1 column, "Democrats have taken taxing authority to new, ridiculous level." She rightly takes issue with T.J. Donovan's directive to charge fees for snapping photos of public records. As usual, Billado attempts to make this a partisan dig, but Democrat Secretary of State James Condos has also disagreed with Donovan, as well as the Vermont A.C.L.U.

While doing research in archives I often take photos with my iPhone of index cards, documents, and other public records discovered in government archives. It makes discovery more efficient, reduces the risk of damaging a fragile document, and avoids bothering a busy staff person with a request to copy said document.

However, in Ms. Billado's nearsighted view of the Trump administration and its antics, she apparently overlooks an even more egregious proposal by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service to exorbitantly raise fees for obtaining public documents for genealogical research.

On 14 November 2019, the agency proposed a sudden and unprecedented increase in fees by 492 percent for copies of public historical records held by the USCIS Genealogy Program.

Just three years ago, a single file would have cost a maximum of $55. The current fee has more than doubled to $130. Under the proposed schedule, it will increase to $240 just to request an index search, and in some cases, an additional $385 to receive the file.

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Various sources state that family history research may be the second most popular hobby. So, these unreasonable fees will affect many Americans seeking a historic document on an immigrant ancestor.

Thank you, Ms. Billado, for raising concerns about Attorney General Donovan's fees for taking photos of public documents for research. Now, please take a minute and visit https://www.recordsnotrevenue.com/ to log concerns for irrational fee increases for Federal public document historical research. Family historians will be ever grateful.

The deadline for comments is December 16, 2019.

Jerry Carbone

Whetstone Brook Genealogy

Brattleboro, Dec. 5


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