Fee to become U.S. citizen jumping to nearly $1,200, an 83% increase

An analysis from the New Partnership for New Americans estimates that by the end of 2020 Arizona will have gained over 49,000 new eligible voters who are immigrants in the four years since the last presidential election. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

The federal agency in charge of adjudicating immigration benefits is increasing the fee to become a U.S. citizen by 83% and charging a new fee for people seeking asylum.

The fees will go into effect on Oct. 2. It will cost $1,170 to file for naturalization, with a $10 discount if the application is submitted online. Those who file an asylum application will now have to pay $50. 

In a statement, USCIS explained that 97% of its operational budget is funded by fees, and that the increases are necessary to recover costs. 

“These overdue adjustments in fees are necessary to efficiently and fairly administer our nation’s lawful immigration system, secure the homeland and protect Americans,” said Joseph Edlow, USCIS deputy director for policy.

The fee increases were criticized by immigration lawyers, with the American Immigration Lawyers Association saying USCIS “has capriciously planned to pass off its inefficiencies to the public.”

Others pointed out that the new financial burdens will make it harder to seek authorization to live and work in the US.  

The process to obtain U.S. citizenship for eligible people (usually those who have permanent resident status) starts with submitting an application for $640 and paying $85 for biometrics. With the change, the naturalization application fee will be $1,170 and the biometric services fee $30. If the application is approved, it is followed by an interview to test the applicant’s civics knowledge and proficiency writing, reading, and speaking English. 

The naturalization process culminates with an oath of allegiance to the United States, typically administered in a ceremony.

Currently, processing for naturalization in Phoenix is taking between 11 to 25 months, according to USCIS’ online processing times calculator. In the Tucson office, that timeframe is between eight to nearly 14 months. 

In Arizona, there are nearly 10,700 naturalization applications pending as of March 31, according to the latest data from USCIS. On the same date in 2016, the application backlog was 7,105.

USCIS is expected to furlough more than 13,000 employees at the end of August due to projected deficits, potentially increasing application backlogs.

Laura Gómez
Reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez covers state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror. She worked for The Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona for four years, covering city government, economic development, immigration, politics and trade. In 2017, Laura traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border for “The Wall,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning project produced by The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network. She was named Best Investigative Reporter by Phoenix Magazine in its 2018 newspaper category and has been honored by the Arizona Press Club for Spanish-language news and feature reporting. She is a native of Bogotá, Colombia and lived in Puerto Rico and Boston before moving to Phoenix in 2014. Catch her researching travel deals, feasting on mariscos or playing soccer.