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MPI Fact Sheet Provides Context for U.S. Government's Planned 80 Percent Increase in Citizenship Application Fees
Press Release
Friday, February 2, 2007

MPI Fact Sheet Provides Context for U.S. Government's Planned 80 Percent Increase in Citizenship Application Fees

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced on January 31 that it plans to increase fees for naturalization applications by 80 percent. USCIS will raise fees for an adult’s application from $330 to $595, and a child’s from $255 to $460.  These increases are examined by Julia Gelatt in an MPI Fact Sheet, "Immigration Fees in Context."

Highlights from the Fact Sheet show:

  • The proposed increase would make applying for U.S. citizenship more costly than in any country with a significant immigration flow. The citizenship application fee for an adult (in U.S. dollars) ranges from $85 in Canada and $93 Australia, to $330 in Germany and $525 in the United Kingdom.
  • High application fees may be a factor discouraging eligible people from applying for citizenship. In 2000-2001, 17 percent of lawful permanent residents who were eligible to naturalize but who had not yet obtained citizenship had incomes below the poverty level, and 41 percent were considered "low income" (with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty line). Those who had recently naturalized had notably higher incomes -- only 11 percent had incomes below the poverty level and just 28 percent had low incomes.
  • Congress has directed that citizenship fees cover not only processing citizenship application costs, but a variety of other unrelated costs. These include asylum and refugee services and conducting record checks to support other government agencies' enforcement duties.

USCIS reports that the new fee increases are necessary to fully cover basic services as well as the move from a largely paper-based system to more efficient online processing -- measures that will become more important if an immigration reform bill is passed legalizing millions of immigrants or establishing a temporary worker program.

“The Congress has put USCIS between a rock and a hard place by forcing it to fund a wide range of government operations through fees charged to immigrant applicants,” saidMargie McHugh, co-director of MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. “There is widespread bipartisan agreement that lawful immigrants should adopt American values and fully join our society.  Republicans and Democrats should be equally concerned that this fee increase will make it more difficult for immigrants to naturalize and therefore, consider more seriously an appropriation to make sure that becoming a citizen remains affordable."

The Fact Sheet is available online here. 

Note: Text from two press releases has been combined here for clarity and ease of use.