Immigration: Cost of applying for U.S. citizenship dramatically increasing

Published by USATODAY.COM

Summary generated on August 10, 2020

    The new fees and elimination of many fee waivers are part of an overall adjustment of immigration benefit fees that will increase by 20% on average and generate an estimated $1 billion in revenue.

    U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that processes immigration benefits, says the fee increases are needed to offset the higher cost of processing applications for immigration benefits, including the Trump administration's attempt to crack down on fraud and increase the vetting of immigrants applying for benefits.

    Analysts said the fee increase will result in fewer legal permanent residents, especially lower-income immigrants, applying for citizenship, limiting their political power because only U.S. citizens can vote.

    Until now, the lower citizenship application fee was "In recognition of the value of citizenship and the belief that those who qualify should be able to access citizenship," Bolter said.

    Combined with the fee increase, the elimination of fee waivers will result in fewer immigrants applying for citizenship, especially lower-income immigrants, Bolter said.

    Under the Trump administration, USCIS is eliminating fee waivers for all immigrants, with the exception of a few categories, including victims of domestic violence, crime and human trafficking victims, Afghani and Iraqi nationals who assisted the U.S. government and minors applying for special immigrant visas who still are under supervision of a juvenile court or child welfare agency, Bolter said.

    David Bier, immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank that supports higher levels of immigration and foreign workers, believes the combination of the naturalization fee increase and elimination of fee waivers will result in more immigrants deciding not to become citizens.

    USCIS is raising fees to cover the increased cost of processing applications for many benefits after the Trump administration implemented many "Onerous" new regulations that have made applying for certain benefits unnecessarily more difficult, Bier said.

    She doesn't believe the fee increases will lead to a decrease in immigrants applying for citizenship.

    In the short term, the increases may result in a spike in immigrants applying for citizenship before the fees go up in October, she said.