The Department of Homeland Security said it would increase the fee to apply for U.S. citizenship by 81% to $1,160 and impose a fee for the first time to apply for asylum, according to a filing in the Federal Register on Friday.
The fee increases, proposed last year, come as the government agency that handles applications faces a budget shortfall and are the latest in a string of rule changes making it tougher for low-income people to immigrate legally or become U.S. citizens.
A USCIS spokesperson said 97% of the agency’s budget is supported by fees. USCIS, unlike most of the federal government, largely depends on funding from fees it collects on citizenship, green-card and other immigration applications, which have fallen in the past few years ... That decline has been compounded during the coronavirus pandemic as the agency has shut its offices.
The spokesperson added the new asylum application fee of $50 is “well below the $366 estimated cost of adjudicating the application.”
The rule also changes fee-waiver requirements to make fewer people eligible for waivers. The final rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Monday and will take effect on Oct. 2.
The fee for asylum seekers would make the U.S. one of four countries to charge a fee for humanitarian protections, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan Washington think tank. The other countries are Iran, Australia and Fiji, the institute said.
The fee may be prohibitive for asylum seekers. “While $50 may sound like a relatively modest amount, it may be a significant hurdle for those lacking a reliable income for extended periods,” the think tank said in a December 2019 report.