USCIS Finalizes Drastic Fee Increase for Immigrants Wanting to Become U.S. Citizens

Civil Rights Groups Blast Administration for Move During Pandemic, Widespread Unemployment
For Immediate Release
Contact
Michelle Boykins 202-296-2300, ext. 0144 mboykins@advancingjustice-aajc.org

Washington, D.C. — A rule change published in the Federal Register indicates United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will raise the naturalization application fee from $640 to $1,170 effective October 2, 2020. This is the latest anti-immigrant action to be carried out by the Trump Administration. The increase in application costs will be an added burden to immigrants and will deter many from applying to become U.S. citizens.

In addition to finalizing increases to many immigration fees, USCIS also announced that it will eliminate the fee waiver for naturalization with very few exceptions, along with the reduced fee option. Without the possibility of financial assistance, many immigrants who would have struggled to afford the application fees before will now be priced out entirely.  With these changes, USCIS is sending the message that the United States will no longer offer “world-wide welcome” to all, much less to the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” but only those who can afford the price of entry.

Marita Etcubañez, director of strategic initiatives at Advancing Justice | AAJC said: “We know that many Americans would have been hard-pressed to cover an emergency expense of $400 before. It is unconscionable for USCIS to implement drastic fee increases at a time that we are dealing with a pandemic and widespread unemployment. Furthermore, USCIS is doubling down on burdening immigrants by abolishing most fee waivers. These actions are an attack on aspiring new Americans and put citizenship further out of reach. Our organizations will continue to oppose the fee increase and the elimination of naturalization-related fee waivers. We will continue to work alongside immigrants’ rights advocates to ensure that citizenship remains accessible and affordable to all.”

In response to USCIS’s rule change, Asian Americans Advancing Justice affiliate organizations in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C., are urging eligible Americans to naturalize before these new measures take effect. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many organizations to limit services or availability, which will further challenge eligible Americans’ access to assistance before the rule change takes effect on October 2, 2020.

Stephanie Cho of Advancing Justice – Atlanta states: “(These policy changes) are a blatant attempt to prevent low-income immigrants from becoming U.S. citizens. High filing fees are an insurmountable obstacle for many of the individuals Advancing Justice serves. Naturalization is a crucial pathway to empowerment for marginalized communities of color in the South and an important protection for Asian Americans and other immigrant families. We strongly encourage community members who might be eligible to naturalize to attend one of our free citizenship clinics.”

Christine Chen, project director for Advancing Justice-LA, states: “As an organization that assists thousands of naturalization applicants each year, of whom over 60% are low income,  we condemn this naturalization fee increase. This rule change will deeply hurt the low-income immigrants and vulnerable communities of color we serve at a time when those very communities are hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. Advancing Justice-LA urges community members who may be eligible to apply for naturalization to contact our office as soon as possible. Safe and free legal assistance with a qualified immigration attorney or DOJ accredited representative is available now.”

Asian Americans Advancing Justice affiliates and many of our partners involved in the New Americans Campaign provide low-cost, or free, legal guidance to eligible Americans through the naturalization application process. Information about how to access assistance in the Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. areas can be found here:

English: 888-349-9695

Korean: 800-867-3640

Mandarin/Cantonese: 800-520-2356

Tagalog: 855-300-2552

Thai: 800-914-9583


For information about organizations providing naturalization assistance throughout the country, see www.NewAmericans Campaign.org.