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Trump Administration Launches Immigration and Work Visa Fees into the Stratosphere

— August 1, 2020

The cost of becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen will nearly double.

The Trump administration has announced a drastic increase in fees for immigration and work visa applications. Under the White House’s new program, the cost of naturalization and first-time asylum pleas will increase by an estimated eighty percent.

According to CNN, the fee increases were announced earlier this week by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  The changes were imposed following a nearly nine-month-long review, and are set to take effect at the beginning of October.

The USCIS said the fee for naturalization applications will rise from its current rate of $640 to $1160. The massive difference is intended to cover the full cost of processing, alongside a “proportional” share of overhead expenses.

CNN says that prospective refugees and asylum-seekers will now have to pay $50 to register a claim to enter or remain in the United States.

The United States’ decision to levy fees on asylum-seekers puts it at odds with the rest of the world. The Migration Policy Institute notes that, historically and currently, few countries charge refugees an application fee. In fact, the only other countries which do are Australia, Fiji, and Iran.

The USCIS claims that the changes reflect neither budget shortfalls caused by the coronavirus pandemic, or the starkly anti-immigration policies of the Trump administration.

Donald Trump; image by Michael Vadon, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0, no changes.
Donald Trump; image by Michael Vadon, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0, no changes.

“These overdue adjustments in fees are necessary to efficiently and fairly administer our nation’s lawful immigration system, secure the homeland and protect Americans,” said Joseph Edlow, the USCIS’s deputy director for policy.

Edlow, notes CNN, runs the agency’s day-to-day operations. Edlow also told FOX News that USCIS is “required to examine incoming and outgoing expenditures, and make adjustments based on that analysis.”

In other words, Edlow and the USCIS have framed the overhaul as a necessity and departmental obligation.

The decision accompanies the Trump administration’s latest challenge to extant immigration policy. As LegalReader noted in late July, President Donald Trump is planning another assault on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA, which took effect under former President Barack Obama, allows undocumented people who were brought to the United States as children to apply for temporary, renewable work and residency permits.

Although President Trump initially assured DACA recipients that their legal status in the United States would be safe under his administration, he made a drastic about-face in mid-2017: in September, he announced that the federal government would end the program.

But a recent Supreme Court ruling ordered the Department of Homeland Security and USCIS to not only continue renewing eligible DACA recipients’ permits, but to resume processing new applications.

However, President Trump has since instructed his administration to refuse to process new DACA submissions.

The USCIS, notes Voice of America, also attempted to levy a $275 renewal fee on DACA claims.

VOA adds that immigration-related fees have, in general, experienced a sharp increase in recent years. In 1990, the cost of naturalization was only $100—now, in October, it’ll cost over ten times as much.


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