The Rising Cost of Becoming A Citizen
–> Editor’s Note: Becoming a U.S. citizen is getting more expensive, says Adam Smith of Sampan newspaper based in Boston, as fees for applications are being raised.
Immigrants hoping to become U.S. citizens will soon have to withdraw more money from their bank accounts.
Starting July 30, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, will raise fees for the citizenship application, for adjusting status to permanent residency, and for other immigration applications.
For those applying to become citizens, the total cost will increase from $400 to $675. To adjust status to become a permanent U.S. resident, the fee will cost slightly over $1,000 for anyone over age 14, and $600 to $930 for kids ages 14 and under.
USCIS, which must cover more than 90% of its expenses from fees, says the increased costs are necessary to improve services, modernize the department, and reduce processing time for applications by an average of 20% over two years.
The department said it received nearly 4,000 public comments in response to its initial announcement in February that fees would increase. Most comments were in opposition to the fee increases, according to a spokesperson for USCIS.
“One of the things we realized from the comments was that when you look at a family adjusting status, or a family applying for a green card, the cost for a family would be really, really high,” said Shawn Saucier, a spokesperson for USCIS. “So we try to look at that and we try to lessen the financial burden on a family adjusting status.”
To do so, Saucier said, the agency created the less expensive fees for kids under age 14 who are seeking green cards. USCIS also will exempt visa fees for victims of human trafficking as well as the fees for special immigration juveniles who have been abandoned by their parents.
Still, several immigrants’ rights groups feel the new cost increases are too expensive.
One such group is the Asian American Justice Center, based in Washington, D.C.
“We are disappointed that the Bush Administration is moving forward with a fee increase of such magnitude even after the USCIS received thousands of public comments opposing the hike,” said the group’s director, Karen Narasaki, in a press statement.
Because more than two-thirds of the nation’s 13.9 million Asian Americans are immigrants, Narasaki stated, that population will be affected by the rising costs.
Several Boston-area immigrant groups also rejected the new fees.
“These fee increases will be nearly insurmountable for people who have come a long way, and waited a long time to earn U.S. citizenship,” said Ali Noorani, director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, in a press statement.
SOURCE: New American Media