USCIS Plans to Eliminate Means-Tested Benefit as Evidence For Waiving Filing Fee

WASHINGTON – The National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) strongly objected to a new Trump administration proposal which would eliminate fee waivers for immigrants applying for citizenship and other forms of immigration relief.

In strongly worded remarks filed during an open comment period which ends today, NPNA admonished U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for attempting to make citizenship only for the wealthy and creating another “Second Wall” barrier against citizenship.

“This proposed regulation is part of the administration’s comprehensive attack on immigrant communities,” said Mireya Reith, Member of NPNA Executive Board and Executive Director of Arkansas United. “It’s simply an attack on the American values of welcoming immigrants and celebrating diversity.”

The proposed change would make it more difficult for immigrants to request an exemption from fees when they seek to become citizens or multiple other forms of immigration relief.

The move could make applying for citizenship impossible for 244,000 elderly, low-income, and working poor immigrants per year. It would also make recipients of means-tested benefits ineligible for the fee waiver when applying for temporary protected status, work authorization, lawful permanent residency after receiving asylum or special immigrant juvenile status, and other forms of relief.

An application for citizenship now costs a total of $725, while a request for a green card is $1,225.

NPNA strongly believes that USCIS is only looking to lengthen and complicate the process of requesting a fee exemption by eliminating the simplest way to prove the need for the waiver based on income. Even if this policy is implemented, immigrants would still be able to qualify for fee waivers by presenting other documents which show their income is low.

“If Trump has his way, only rich people like him and his family would be able to afford citizenship,” said Susan Collins, Director of Policy and Advocacy for NPNA. “This violates our values as a nation, immortalized by the State of Liberty: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.’ There has never been, nor should there ever be a wealth test to qualify for naturalization. NPNA urges all who are eligible to apply for citizenship as soon as possible before it gets more expensive.”

The proposed regulation would reverse a policy for which NPNA fought and won during the Obama administration. The change could come as early as this month.

##

The National Partnership for New Americans, a national, multiethnic, multiracial partnership of immigrants and refugee rights organizations across 31 states who work to promote citizenship and integration among our diverse immigrant and refugee communities for the benefit of all Americans.