Immigration Fee Increases in Context
This fact sheet briefly summarizes the background and implications of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) proposal to increase immigration fees during the summer of 2007. Authors speculate the potential effects of the proposed increase, which include: an 80 percent increase in naturalization application fees from $330 to $595 for adult applicants and from $255 to $460 for children, a 178 percent increase in lawful permanent residence application fees from $325 to $905, and a 14 percent increase in fingerprinting service fees from $70 to $80. They caution that the substantial increase in naturalization fees may hamper the ability of millions of eligible LPRs—especially those with lower incomes—to naturalize, and prevent these individuals from accessing public benefit programs, petitioning for family unification, and participating fully in civic life.
The report highlights a number of factors that lie at the heart of USCIS’ funding strains, and consequently, its justification for the need to raise fees. These include the lack of federal appropriations to cover the agency’s operational costs, insufficient fee revenue to cover both its application processing costs and non-adjudications activities, failure of past fee increases to keep pace with rising post-September 11th security costs, and the continued use of an outdated paper-based processing system. While authors recognize an urgent need for USCIS to update and streamline its adjudication processes, they question the wisdom of placing the entire burden of increased costs on potential applicants. Instead, they propose that Congress provide USCIS with appropriations to relieve immigrants of the responsibility for funding the full range of USCIS duties and overhead costs, or alternatively, target appropriations to subsidizing costs of immigrant integration initiatives that align with national policy priorities.