Filing for citizenship, other benefits becomes more expensive in October

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Advocates calling on immigrants to file paperwork before prices increase

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Downtown San Diego re-opened today for limited services.

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Filing for immigration benefits will cost more beginning on Oct. 2.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said it has completed a review of proposed fee increases and will implement most of them starting in the next fiscal year. Here’s a complete list of fees and increases.

Applying to become a U.S. citizen will cost 81% more, requesting genealogy records goes up around 300% and there’s a new $50 fee for asylum seekers.

The review excluded a proposed $275 renewal fee for “Dreamers” — the beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

The agency said its fees are going up an average of 20% to cover operational costs which are underfunded by about $1 billion per year. The last time the agency revised its fees (2016), they went up an average of 21%. Fees make up about 97% of the agency’s budget.

In addition to the budget shortfall, the agency has been slowed down by the COVID-19 pandemic, with citizenship ceremonies postponed and the prospect of furloughs.

“USCIS is required to examine incoming and outgoing expenditures and make adjustments based on that analysis,” said Joseph Edlow, USCIS deputy director for policy. “These overdue adjustments in fees are necessary to efficiently and fairly administer our nation’s lawful immigration system, secure the homeland and protect Americans.”

Earlier, advocates in El Paso had urged immigrants to file their paperwork before the fees went up. Some also had complained that the Trump administration seems bent on making it difficult for people to become U.S. citizens, which would give them the right to vote.

Melissa M. Lopez, DMRS Executive Director and Attorney at Law:

New Fee Schedule:

“I think anytime there is an increase or decrease in fees, but it’s not coupled with better services by the agency, there’s always a concern. USCIS, despite continuing to raise fees over the years, continues to run out of money and ask Congress for additional money,” said Melissa M. Lopez, executive director of El Paso’s Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services.

Lopez also expressed concern for the new asylum fee.

“I think it’s really concerning that we are going to require asylum-seekers to pay a fee when the reality is that when you are fleeing your country you don’t often plan and have the financial resources to hire an attorney, much less to be able to pay a fee,” she said.

If the asylum seeker applies for a waiver and the waiver is denied, he or she will may not have the resources to proceed with the application, Lopez said.

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