UPDATE 1 OCTOBER 2020:
Comments by Sanwar Ali:
As previously reported, there are a number of US visa related fee increases from this Friday 2 October 2020. One of the biggest increases is 75% for the L1 visa for intra-company transfers increasing from $460 to $815. The O1 visa for those with extraordinary ability increases by 53% from $460 to $705. Surely, a bad time for these increases. Due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic migrants are in a worse financial position than normal. There has been a significant increase in the number of people applying due to the increase in a few days.
From October 2, 2020, the fee to apply for US citizenship will increase by 81%, raising huge concerns among US immigration advocates. The federal government reassesses US immigration and citizenship fees every 10 years, and while some changes were expected, many were unprepared for such sharp rises.
The current US citizenship fee is $725, while United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), also offers a number of concessions. This includes a fee waiver for any applicant whose income is on or below 150% of federal poverty guidelines.
Also, if an applicant’s income is between 150% and 200% of the poverty guidelines, then they can pay a reduced US citizenship application fee. However, from October 2, the fee is set to rise to an eye-watering $1,255.
In another blow, USCIS is set to scrap the fee waiver and reduced fee options, leaving US citizenship applicants on low-incomes facing a huge struggle to secure naturalization.
Green card holders wishing to apply for US citizenship severely impacted
US immigration advocates fear that this will not only deter green card holders from applying for citizenship, but make it impossible for them to apply. Even without the fee increase, payment is a huge barrier for many hoping to apply for citizenship in the US.
According to a study by Stanford University’s Immigration Policy Law in 2019, between 2016 and 2017, half of US legal permanent residents – otherwise known as green card holders – who applied for citizenship in the US were eligible for the fee waiver.
With fees set to surge, for many, the dream of becoming a US citizen faces a lengthy wait or will have to be abandoned altogether.
Green card fees reduced
While US citizenship fees will be massively increased, the fees for US green cards are set to be reduced. Green card holders must renew their status every 10 years. The current application fee for a green card is $540. However, from October 2 this will drop to $500, representing a 9% decrease.
It seems the Trump administration is determined to have green card holders continually renew their legal resident status rather than have immigrants becoming citizens who can vote in the upcoming presidential elections.
According to a recent study, more than 23 million naturalized citizens – meaning green card holders who became American citizens – will be able to vote in the 2020 elections. The study found that since the year 2000, the number of naturalized citizen voters has surged by 93% and now make up approximately 10% of the nation’s current electorate.
Although the number of legal permanent residents who qualify for naturalization will continue to rise, it’s expected that economic barriers to US citizenship will impact the number of naturalized citizen voters in years to come.
Rush to apply for US citizenship
With fees set to soar, there has been in a surge in US citizenship applications in recent weeks. Meanwhile, a number of US visa and immigration advocates have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the fees.
USCIS, which is funded entirely by US visa and immigration application fees, argued that the agency would lose $1 billion per year if its fees were frozen. The agency argued that fee increases will also help to ‘detect and deter fraud and enable applicants, petitioners and beneficiaries to be fully vetted.’
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