FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 17, 2011
SCHUMER REVEALS: HIGH FEES PREVENTING LEGAL RESIDENT NEW YORKERS FROM APPLYING FOR CITIZENSHIP; SCHUMER CALLS FOR MAKING VISA APPLICATION PAYMENT PROCESS EASIER
Current Cost of Applying for Naturalization Is $680, Making It Unaffordable for Many Legal Residents to Apply; Recent DHS Report Found 1.6 Million Legal Residents Live in New York, and 12.6 Million Nationwide
Schumer Calls on US Citizenship and Immigration Services to Make It Easier for Legal Residents to Apply For Citizenship by Allowing Them to Pay Application Fee In Installment Payments Over Many Months
Schumer: Application Fees Shouldn’t Stand In The Way of Giving Legal Residents A Shot at Citizenship and Opportunity to Contribute to American Economy
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to make it easier for the 1.6 million legal residents in New York and 12.6 million legal residents nationwide to pay for their naturalization costs and apply for citizenship by allowing them to make payments over time for those costs. Schumer’s call comes on the heels of a recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report that found that of the 12.6 million legal permanent residents living in the United States, 8.1 million were eligible for naturalization. According to many news reports, these high fees prevent many of these legal residents from applying from naturalization. Today, in a letter to USCIS Director Mayorkas, Schumer called on USCIS to adopt new methods for collecting the $680 fee needed to apply for naturalization that would make it easier for legal residents to pay. Schumer suggested that USCIS should stagger payments so that the fee can be paid over several months.
“The fact that there are millions of legal residents in this country, ready to contribute to our economy, who simply cannot afford to apply to become citizens boggles the mind,” said Schumer. “We should do everything we can to make sure that legal residents, who want to be American citizens and contribute to society, can do so in an easier and more affordable process. That’s why I’m urging the federal government to allow legal residents to stagger their application payments to make it easier for them to apply. Application fees shouldn’t stand in the way of giving millions of legal residents the opportunity to become citizens.”
At present, it costs $680 to apply for naturalization, and the entire fee amount must be paid up front—which, given the current state of the economy, is often unaffordable for 1 person, much less a family of four. Many reports indicate that this fee is preventing a substantial number of green card holders from naturalizing. In fact, according to USA Today, when citizenship application fees jumped to $675 from $400 in 2007, applications declined 59%.
In his letter to Director Mayorkas, Schumer asked USCIS to adopt new methods for collecting the application fee to make it more affordable for applications. Currently, there are three main points in a naturalization application: 1) the initial application; 2) the citizenship examination; and 3) the naturalization oath. Schumer said that USCIS should consider staggering these payments into three steps to make the naturalization process more affordable for families. Schumer suggested that the agency charge $230 at the initial application phase; $230 prior to administering the citizenship examination; and $230 prior to administering the naturalization oath.
A copy of Schumer’s letteris below.
Dear Director Mayorkas:
As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, I am responsible for directing the Senate’s oversight of the immigration functions of the Department of Homeland Security, including U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In this regard, I am writing with concern to recent reports from the Department of Homeland Security indicating that there are currently 12.6 million legal permanent residents residing in the United States and, that among the legal residents, an estimated 8.1 million are eligible for naturalization.
As a Senator from New York—a state with a long-established tradition of welcoming and integrating immigrants from countries around the world—I believe we should be doing anything we can to encourage these individuals with green cards to become Americans and, thus, we should have policies that promote rather than discourage naturalization.
One such policy would be to address the prohibitive fee that is charged for naturalization. At present, it costs $680 to apply for naturalization. The entire fee amount must be paid up front—which, given the current state of the economy, is often unaffordable for 1 person, much less a family of four. Many news accounts indicate that this fee is preventing a substantial number of green card holders from naturalizing.
I do not dispute that your agency is charging only the amount needed to process the application, I simply ask you to use your authority to adopt new methods for collecting this fee in a manner that is affordable for applicants. For instance, there are three main points in a naturalization application: 1) the initial application; 2) the citizenship examination; and 3) the naturalization oath. There is no reason that USCIS cannot stagger they payments into three steps to make the naturalization process more affordable for families. For instance, the agency can charge $230 at the initial application phase; $230 prior to administering the citizenship examination; and $230 prior to administering the naturalization oath. Alternatively, any other number of staggered-payment schedules can be devised.
Promoting naturalization to U.S. citizenship is an important goal for me, and should be an important goal for USCIS. We should not make attainment of citizenship contingent on financial means, and should look for ways to allow people to naturalize while allowing you to cover your costs. If there is any assistance you need from Congress in this regard, we stand ready to help with any legislation necessary to further this objective. We thank you for your attention to this important matter, and look forward to working with you.
Charles E. Schumer
Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security