Proposed Fee Increase a Barrier to Citizenship

Posted on Fri, Feb 02, 2007 at 11:50 am

(Washington, D.C.)– HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, is concerned about the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) proposed increase in the application fee for citizenship. Under the proposal, citizenship application fees would be increased from $400 to $675, an increase of 69%. Other immigration filing fees would be increased by an average of 66%. Fees for a family of four hoping to naturalize would be prohibitive.

“At a time when the President has made immigration one of his top domestic priorities and has stated his support for local and national initiatives to advance immigrant integration, this proposal would create a huge barrier to that goal,” says Gideon Aronoff, president and CEO of HIAS. “Steep hikes in fees such as those proposed would place an extraordinary burden on hardworking, low-income immigrant families and other vulnerable immigrant populations who seek to become citizens.”

HIAS and others in the Jewish community have long been actively engaged in advocacy around citizenship and immigrant integration. Ten years ago, HIAS launched the Citizenship Across America project, a comprehensive, nationwide program designed to encourage and assist people eligible for citizenship to move as successfully and as quickly as possible through the naturalization process.

“Although we encourage USCIS in its stated goals to improve services and systems and to shorten processing times, a fee increase of this magnitude poses particular obstacles for many immigrant families, especially low-income families, many of whom as a result would be discouraged from applying for citizenship,” says Aronoff. “The Biblical imperative to welcome the stranger is part of our culture and is our moral obligation to immigrant families. Helping them become citizens is the highest form of achieving that goal. Any proposal which creates further hardships and obstacles in maintaining those traditions does not foster our sense of truly being a welcoming nation.”

“The funding structure whereby USCIS is 99% fee-based is unreasonable and untenable,” says Aronoff. “We propose that the Bush administration and Congress fund a portion of the USCIS budget through annual congressional appropriations so that the federal government can provide essential and timely services to immigrants that will ensure that they have a realistic chance at becoming U.S. citizens, which is in our national interest.”