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Trump Administration Proposes Increasing Fee for U.S. Citizenship Application

The Wall Street Journal. logo The Wall Street Journal. 11/9/2019 Michelle Hackman, Alicia A. Caldwell
a group of people standing on the side of a road © Eric Gay/Associated Press

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration is proposing to raise the cost of applying for U.S. citizenship, as well as creating new fees for some asylum seekers and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The proposed actions are just the latest of the Trump administration’s rule changes, large and small, that make it tougher for low-income people to immigrate legally or become citizens of the U.S.

The Department of Homeland Security published its tentative new set of fees in a proposed rule posted Friday evening, and the plan will be open to public comment for 30 days starting Nov. 14, the day it is scheduled to be published on the Federal Register.

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Recipients of DACA, which provides legal protection for people brought to the U.S. illegally as children, would under the proposal need to pay $275 to renew their two-year legal permits.

Some asylum seekers who apply for protection with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the DHS agency that processes citizenship and other immigration applications, would for the first time be asked to pay $50 to apply for asylum. That would make the U.S. one of the few countries in the world to attach a fee to humanitarian protections.

In addition to the new or raised fees, the government is proposing to eliminate fee waivers, meaning applicants with incomes under the federal poverty line would be required to pay the higher citizenship fee and any costs associated with renewing a green card or work permit.

USCIS cited increased costs and declining revenue to cover expenses as part of need to increase some fees. USCIS said that without the increases, the agency could operate at a deficit of more than $1 billion in the future.

“The adjudication of immigration applications and petitions requires in-depth screening, incurring costs that must be covered by the agency, and this proposal accounts for our operational needs and better aligns our fee schedule with the costs of processing each request,” said Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of USCIS.

The government is also planning to transfer money raised through the new proposed fee schedule to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency under DHS that carries out deportations, workplace investigations and other immigration enforcement actions. The money would be used to root out any potential fraud in future applications for citizenship, green cards, asylum and other immigration benefits.

Under the proposed new fee schedule, immigrants looking to become citizens would now need to pay $1,170 rather than $640, a cost that almost no one would be permitted to waive. The administration last month changed its fee waiver policy, so that reliance on public benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps or housing assistance would no longer qualify immigrants for the waiver.

Melissa Rodgers, director of programs for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, said the proposed fees would likely price out many people who could have otherwise become citizens.

“This is a wealth tax on becoming a U.S. citizen,” Ms. Rodgers said. “It’s part and parcel of the assault on the naturalization process.”

The new asylum fee wouldn’t apply to most migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and asking for protection. Countries that charge for asylum protection include Australia, Fiji and Iran.

Numerous immigrants, including asylum seekers, DACA recipients and the approximately half a million immigrants with temporary protected status must also pay a separate fee to work legally in the U.S. The cost associated with that permit would increase to $490 from $410.

The new proposed fees are part of President Trump’s broader effort to restrict immigrants’ ability to enter the U.S. A federal judge last Saturday blocked a Trump administration policy that would have required immigrants moving to the U.S. to demonstrate they have health care or the financial means to pay for medical costs. That mandate could have blocked more than half of new immigrants looking to move to the U.S. through family ties.

Federal courts in three states in October blocked another DHS policy that would have required many of the same applicants to demonstrate that they wouldn’t become reliant on any public benefits should they be allowed to immigrate to the U.S. That rule would have also blocked immigrants already in the country from gaining permanent residence if they had used public benefits or might in the future.

Mr. Trump has also cut the number of refugees allowed into the country to a record-low 18,000 for the fiscal year that began in October.

Write to Michelle Hackman at and Alicia A. Caldwell at


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