Jul 31, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump admin to increase fees for asylum and naturalization applications

The Department of Homeland Security's logo.

The Department of Homeland Security's seal. Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on Friday plans to hike fees for multiple immigration and work visa applications, including a more than 80% increase on naturalization applications and a new fee for asylum applicants.

Why it matters: The adjusted costs, which take effect Oct. 2, may deter low-income immigrants from pursuing citizenship and could prevent those seeking refuge in the U.S. from applying for asylum. The shifts come as USCIS is facing COVID-19-related budget shortfalls.

Details: With the new $50 fee for asylum applications, the U.S. will become the fourth country in the world to charge a fee for humanitarian protections. Only Iran, Fiji and Australia have such applications fees, according to the Wall Street Journal.

  • The agency will increase the cost of naturalization applications from $640 to $1,170, though it will give a $10 discount to applicants who submit forms online, according to the Department of Homeland Security's final ruling on the fee increases.
  • USCIS, which oversees the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, removed a proposed $275 renewal fee for DACA recipients.

What they're saying: “USCIS is required to examine incoming and outgoing expenditures and make adjustments based on that analysis,” said Joseph Edlow, USCIS deputy director for policy.

  • The Department of Homeland Security said in its final ruling that "it does not intend to discourage naturalization and is not motivated by any consideration other than achieving full cost recovery while emphasizing the beneficiary-pays principle in establishing these fees."

The big picture: Unlike most government agencies, USCIS is fee-funded. Money collected and deposited into the Immigration Examinations Fee Account fund makes up nearly 97% of USCIS’ budget.

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