The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced a final rule that will adjust immigration service costs and application fees, with the fee for naturalization increasing more than 80 percent, from $640 to $1,170.00. The new fee schedule is effective October 2, 2020, and will impact nearly all immigrants, including intercountry adoptees without citizenship who seek to naturalize after that date.
Some fees associated with intercountry adoptees will decrease. The cost for requesting a Certificate of Citizenship, for instance, will decrease—from $1,170.00 to $1,000.00. The N-400 (Naturalization) and N-600 (Certificate of Citizenship) are the two most common forms filed by intercountry adoptees who are either seeking U.S. citizenship or needing proof of that citizenship.
The required biometrics fee will decrease from $85 to $30, except for people applying for Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The fee for biometrics will not change for DACA recipients.
The fee changes that will likely impact intercountry adoptees, depending on the adopted person’s legal status, are listed below. The new fees go into effect on October 2, 2020.
|Form||Current||New||+/- $||+/- %|
|N-400: Application for Naturalization*||$640.00||$1,170.00||+$530.00||+83%|
|N-600: Application for Certificate of Citizenship*||$1,170.00||$1,000.00||-$170.00||-15%|
|N-565: Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document*||$555.00||$545.00||-$10.00||-2%|
|Biometric Service (except for DACA recipients)||$85.00||$30.00||-$55.00||-65%|
Most of my work is pro bono and many of my low-income clients benefit from a fee waiver, in which the USCIS does not charge a filing fee for naturalization or for requesting a certificate of citizenship. The new final rule, however, substantially changes who qualifies for fee waivers.
Current policy grants fee waivers under three options:
- The person receives a “means-tested” government benefit, such as food stamps, Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI), or public assistance (e.g., TANF);
- The person’s income is less than 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, which is $19,140 for a single person and $39,300 for a family of four; or
- The person can show a financial hardship (this requirement is generally very difficult to meet).
The new rule does two things: 1) eliminates the “mean-tested” category, meaning that, even if a person already receives public assistance from the state or federal government, it is insufficient to qualify for a fee waiver (most of my clients who receive a fee waiver are in this category); and 2) reduces the household income ceiling to 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. This means a single person, to qualify for a fee waiver, must prove they do not have annual household income greater than $15,270. A family of four must show it does not have household income greater than $32,750.
This is how USCIS explains its rationale for eliminating the means-tested benefit:
Receipt of any means-tested benefit would no longer automatically satisfy the new regulation’s requirements for demonstrating inability to pay. USCIS has also considered if means-tested benefits that are awarded using 125 percent of the FPG [Federal Poverty Guidelines] would be acceptable evidence of the 125 percent of the FPG household income requirement in addition to the other criteria in new 8 CFR 106.3(d). However, implementing that criterion would require USCIS to determine the income requirements that all jurisdictions across the United States use to determine eligibility for each means-tested benefit. In addition, USCIS would be required to continually monitor those requirements for any changes by individual jurisdictions and programs. Therefore, DHS has determined that such a policy would be unnecessarily burdensome for USCIS to administer and decided not to . . . permit any usage of a means-tested benefit as evidence for a fee waiver.
Far fewer applicants will now qualify for a fee waiver and, in conjunction with the massive increase in the fee for naturalization, may put U.S. citizenship out of reach for many immigrants and, by extension, intercountry adoptees. Worse, eliminating a simple “means-tested” requirement as proof of an inability to pay a filing fee will make qualifying for a fee waiver far more difficult, expensive, and time-consuming, as applicant’s and their attorneys will be required to document household income rather than simple proof of receipt of public assistance, which is always means-tested.
In addition to the huge increase in the fee for naturalization, genealogical-related services at USCIS will increase more than 300 percent for record requests and more than 160 percent for search requests.
|Form||Current||New||+/- $||+/- %|
|G-1041: Genealogy Index Search Request*||$65.00||$170.00||+$105.00||+162%|
|G-1041A: Genealogy Index Records Request*||$65.00||$265.00||+$200.00||+308%|
*Note: Fees are $10.00 less if the paperwork is filed online instead of by paper. For the full final rule and tables for all forms, go to USCIS here.