Fees for citizenship form to go up 80%

Like Iran, US will charge asylum seekers for asylum applications

People arrive before the start of a naturalization ceremony at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Miami Field Office, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018, in Miami. The USCIS may have to furlough more than 13,000 employees due to COVID-19 and a drop in applications. (Wilfredo Lee | The Associated Press)

On the heels of more restrictive immigration policy from the Trump administration, the agency tasked with processing legal immigration documents announced it was raising its fees.

Last week, officials with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced fee increases for several services citing as it has all year, a growing budget deficit that would force them to furlough more than 13,000 of its employees by the end of the month. The new fees would be implemented Oct. 2, the document stated.

Last week, before the furlough of more than 13,000 employees, the USCIS announced it would delay the furloughs until the end of August.

The fee increases, the first since December 2016, come at a time when USCIS officials continue to implore Congressional members to inject more than $1.2 billion into the agency to avoid a large furlough of its employees.

In some cases, like that of fees for citizenship applications, fees would increase by more than 80%, according to the federal register. Citizenship applicants would pay higher fees, with the naturalization form increasing by nearly double, from $640 to $1,170, the document stated.

Some increases to note; green-card applicants would pay much higher fees than they do now due to work and travel permits now require separate fees, from $1,750, to $2,830. Recently married couples would pay an extra $165 to obtain a permanent green card.

For asylum seekers, who currently do not have to pay a fee for an asylum application, a fee of $50 will be added — a huge change for a country that has been the center of a “melting pot” of people since its inception. It would make the U.S. only one of four countries in the world to charge an asylum fee, along with Iran, Fiji, and Australia.

In the largest relative increase, the fee for applicants for family members of a crime victim, will go up more than five times, from $230, to $1,285, drawing criticism from crime victim advocates who say the increase is excessive and would have a negative impact on vulnerable communities.

Opponents of the fee increases have said it disproportionately impacts people of color, and is designed in a way to keep non-white immigrants out of the U.S.

Adding to the impact is the decision to eliminate fee waivers, which again would disproportionately hurt low-income, immigrant, and mixed-status families, looking to apply for U.S. citizenship.

According to the USCIS document outlining the new fees, the proposed changes will add more than $1 billion in revenue for the agency which subsists primarily on fees. Some 97% of its budget is derived from fees.

But of the $1 billion in new revenue, USCIS does not state how more than 60% or $649,698,915 would be allocated. Instead, it shows about a third of that money would go to hire new USCIS staff, about $122,750,000, and another $185 million for staff pay raises but no accountability for the more than $649 million.

When the new fees take effect Oct. 2, it could impact the more than 1.39 million legal permanent residents in Texas.