Published August 26, 2020

By: Richard Hanus, Esq.

As of October 2, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s immigration benefits arm – Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) – is set to increase filing fees on a variety of applications.  Most notably, the filing fee to submit an N-400 Application for Naturalization, currently totaling $725.00, is scheduled to skyrocket to $1,170.00 when the new fee schedule takes effect.

Other filing fee increases include petitions for most work visas, including for H-1B and L-1 visas, ranging from 21% to 75%, making it even more expensive for companies and foreign workers to avail of the legal immigration system.   Further, in an unprecedented move, CIS will now be charging an application fee for those fleeing persecution in foreign countries and seeking asylum in the U.S. – making the U.S. just 1 of 4 countries to impose a filing fee for an asylum application.

Legal challenges to these filing fee increases have already been initiated and on various bases, including that 1) the current Secretary of Homeland Security has, to date, only been appointed in an “acting” capacity, and was never confirmed through required legal channels and 2) the exorbitant fee hike results in an unlawful “wealth test” for prospective applicants.  In the coming weeks, we will know more about whether these proposed, massive filing fee increases will withstand judicial review.

In the meantime, for those interested in pursuing an Application for Naturalization, eligibility almost always depends on having accumulated 5 years of lawful permanent residence (aka green card status) or 3 years for those who are married to and live with their U.S. citizen spouse.   Among other requirements, applicants must demonstrate “good moral character” for the applicable 3 or 5 year qualifying period, and that they have been  primarily residing in the U.S.    Further, applicants will need to demonstrate competence in reading and writing in the English language and pass a civics test.

These days with heightened agency scrutiny of all applications, applicants for naturalization may face a range of pitfalls when appearing for their interview, such as a revisiting of how they obtained their resident status in the first place.  Was the process and law that was the basis of the applicant’s grant of resident status followed?  Were the facts asserted as the basis of eligibility truly facts?   These types of questions are not uncommon when it comes to review and decision-making on citizenship applications these days, and prospective applicants are advised to be prepared for thorough questioning and review of their filing.

PUBLISHED August 26, 2020– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2020, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois