Fees to apply for citizenship to shoot up, adding to immigrants’ struggle, advocates say

Immigration

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — The price of becoming an American is set to go up, with the cost of applying for citizenship increasing 81%.

Legal residents currently pay $640 to apply for citizenship, but on Oct. 2, the price will jump to $1,170 if they apply by mail. There is a $10 savings if they apply online.

The Department of Homeland Security announced the changes on July 31.

Lizbeth Maysonet, from Costa Rica, says she considers herself lucky to have become a U.S. citizen before that Oct. 2 deadline. She said she’s sure the increased costs will prevent some people from applying. “Yeah! Sure. Yes,” she said when asked.

Learning Empowered, a nonprofit that offers free citizenship classes and legal services, has gone from 25-30 students registering for classes to 70 students in three days. Most of the people helped by the organization live 200% below the poverty line.

“Many of these families are one-income families, and paying this fee for naturalization is going to be just a drain for many of these families,” says Andrea Lypka, director of Integrated Learning at the nonprofit.

DHS says current fees would leave the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services underfunded by $1 billion a year.

“USCIS is required to examine incoming and outgoing expenditures and make adjustments based on that analysis,” said Joseph Edlow, USCIS deputy director for policy. “These overdue adjustments in fees are necessary to efficiently and fairly administer our nation’s lawful immigration system, secure the homeland and protect Americans.”

The last time USCIS increased fees was in December of 2016.

Maysonet said she is telling legal residents thinking of applying for citizenship to do it now before the changes go into effect.

Another change will require refugees to pay $50 to apply for asylum — a first in the United States, which is now one of four countries in the world that charges those seeking asylum.

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