US to raise naturalization application fees by $500

On Friday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced its finalized fee structure, denoting a dramatic increase in fees for several immigration and work applications.

Among the changes announced are a $500 price increase on naturalization applications and a historic, first-time fee on asylum applications.

The agency increased the cost of the online naturalization application from $640 to $1,170, marking an 83 percent increase. USCIS defended this rise by saying the new naturalization fee will cover the full cost of processing the application.

While Congress expressed concern about the new fee being a barrier to entry, the agency moved forward with plans of eliminating fee waivers and naturalization fee reductions.

There will also be a $50 fee for asylum seekers. The U.S. joins only three other countries — Australia, Iran and Fiji — in requiring immigrants to pay a fee to seek refuge.

Fees for other forms, including for employment authorization and for genealogy records, will also go up.

Approximately 97 percent of USCIS’ budget is funded by application fees, unlike most other governmental agencies. After conducting a biennial fee review, the immigration agency concluded that the current fees were not recovering the cost of services.

“USCIS is required to examine incoming and outgoing expenditures and make adjustments based on that analysis,” said Joseph Edlow, USCIS deputy director for policy, in a news release. “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 rule will take effect on Oct. 2, 2020.