‘For too many aspiring Americans, the cost of naturalization is a significant barrier to becoming a citizen…’
(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Bob Menendez, D-NJ, last week introduced the Citizenship Affordability Act, a bill that would allow more legal residents to apply for citizenship at little or no cost.
“We are and have always been a nation of immigrants, and we should do all we can to provide a pathway to citizenship for those who have come here in search of a better life,” Harris said, according to a press release.
“I’m proud to co-sponsor this legislation that will ensure that the cost of the naturalization process is not a barrier to becoming a full and active participant in our civic life,” she said. “Our diversity is our strength, and we must foster it.”
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services currently charges $640 for the application and $85 for a biometric fee, bringing the total cost per applicant to $725.
USCIS has generous provisions to help legal residents who cannot afford the cost.
USCIS will waive the fees for legal residents earning less than 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level and reduce fees for those who earn less than 200 percent.
“Becoming an American citizen should not depend on whether or not you can afford a costly application fee,” Menendez said.
“Citizenship promotes integration, civic responsibility, and a sense of community, which ultimately benefits all Americans,” he said. “Yet for too many aspiring Americans, the cost of naturalization is a significant barrier to becoming a citizen.”
Harris said USCIS plans to limit eligibility for fee waivers, but the Citizenship Affordability Act would make current waivers permanent and expand future fee waivers to legal residents earning up to 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.
The California senator, currently one of two dozen candidates vying for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, has sought to stand out from the pack with a series of eye-popping policy proposals but is currently hovering at only 7% among contenders, according to a recent Morning Consult survey.
While Harris wants the federal government to give more free services, somebody will have to pay for them.
“Fee revenues support more than 95 percent of the USCIS budget as part of the agency’s work administering the nation’s lawful immigration system,” USCIS said in a press release.
“In fact, the total dollar values of fee waivers granted by USCIS have increased substantially in each of the last eight years, which, in effect, increases the fee that must be paid by other individuals seeking benefits.”
Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif., introduced a companion bill in the House.