The New Americans Campaign (NAC) has published an op-ed in The Hill calling on U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to make naturalization more accessible to low- and middle-income lawful permanent residents. USCIS proposed a $35 increase in the application fee to become a naturalized citizen, bringing the total cost to $760. This will add an already high barrier to millions of low-and-middle-income lawful permanent residents from achieving their American dreams. Currently, there are over 9 million permanent residents eligible for citizenship, but only 10 percent naturalize each year due to high costs, lack of legal knowledge, and language barriers.
“Historically, fee increases trigger a dramatic decline in the naturalization of less-educated (and likely lower-income) immigrants and an increase in the number of years immigrants wait to become citizens.” – Lucia Martel Dow, director of the NAC.
The number of low-income lawful permanent residents naturalizing each year already lags behind those with higher incomes. If USCIS raises the cost, they should raise the income eligibility threshold for a fee waiver, use more accurate means-tested standards, and simplify the process for obtaining fee waivers to remove unnecessary barriers. Discriminating against lawful permanent residents based on income level is unfair, and American citizenship cannot become exclusive only to those with the ability to pay.
“As an American citizen who proudly naturalized, I want to ensure others have the same opportunity, regardless of income.” – Lucia Martel Dow, director of the NAC.
Check out the Op-ed on The Hill for more.