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One Million Immigrants May Benefit from Partial Fee Waiver

August 11, 2016
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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently proposed an adjustment to the immigration and naturalization fee at the beginning of the upcoming fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. While the fee for naturalization will increase from $595 to $640, USCIS also proposes a partial fee waiver for immigrants making between 150 percent and 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Immigrants in that income bracket will pay a reduced application fee of $320.

A recent report by the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration examines the potential impact of the proposed partial waiver. Using Census data, this report concludes that 1 million immigrants eligible for naturalization or 12 percent of all immigrants eligible to naturalize, may qualify for the partial waiver.

The report provides charts to demonstrate how many lawful permanent citizens are potentially eligible for the partial waiver in each state. Four states—California, Texas, New York and Florida—are home to more than 60 percent of this group of immigrants.

The report also takes a close look at the national origins of immigrants who are potentially eligible for the partial waiver. The authors calculate that 16 percent of Mexican and Central American immigrants eligible to naturalize will be able to benefit from the partial waiver.

Mexicans, in particular, will benefit disproportionally from the partial fee waiver because they are overrepresented among immigrants with poverty or near-poverty income. Of all immigrants who may benefit from the partial waiver, 43 percent are Mexicans.

Maps are included in the report to show the location (down to the level of Census Public Use Microdata Areas, or Pumas) of potential beneficiaries. These maps focus on four areas of the country that have the largest concentrations of potential beneficiaries (Southern California, California’s Central Valley, the New York metro area and South-Central-East Texas).

Assuming the new schedule goes into effect and the partial waiver survives the public review process, which concluded last month, the aforementioned report will be an encouraging tool for eligible low-income immigrants to become citizens.

As the Campaign has previously noted, while the partial fee waiver is a welcome and needed element, it may not go far enough to help some immigrants living under tougher economic conditions.