I represent a number of intercountry adoptees on issues related to securing or proving US citizenship, whether it involves naturalization, adjustment of status, or applying for a certificate of citizenship. Almost all of my work is pro bono or low bono, but free or substantially reduced legal fees doesn’t include payment of filing fees to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). And those fees are hefty. They’re also about to get heftier.
The Department of Homeland Security has proposed whopping increases in some fees that directly impact adoptees and their descendants, while also proposing to eliminate fee waivers that many people can use if they cannot afford the filing fees.
Here are the fees proposed in November that will most impact intercountry adoptees. I’ve also included—for you public records activists, adoptees generally, and search angels out there— some genealogy-related fee proposals that will significantly impact anyone who has an ancestor who immigrated to the United States, as this will likely impact many adoptees and their descendants.
Note: DHS changed its proposed rule a few weeks ago and extended the time for public comment, but it did not disclose the overall weighted average fee increase nor what the proposed amounts for specific forms would be.
|Genealogy Index Search Request (G-1041)||$65||$385||+269%|
|Genealogy Records Request (G-1041A)||$65||$415||+492%|
|Application for Naturalization (N-400)||$640||$1,170||+83%|
|Application for Certificate of Citizenship (N-600)||$1,170||$1,015||-13%|
Fees that impact adult intercountry adoptees the most are those related to naturalizing or obtaining certificates of citizenship. Those fees are already prohibitively expensive. And while a certificate of citizenship application will decrease by $155.00, it will still cost more than $1,000 to apply. The application for naturalization, however, jumps substantially, to more than $1,100, pricing out many adult adoptees from securing citizenship, particularly those who did not (and still some who currently will not) receive certificates of citizenship automatically upon entry to the United States.
At the same time, USCIS has proposed eliminating fee waivers for naturalization and citizenship-related applications. Fee waivers, which apply to low-income individuals and families, allow applicants to submit forms without the need to pay the required fee. The current USCIS proposal to eliminate certain fee waivers, if adopted, would mean that at least half of my current clients will have no ability to pay for what they need to move forward as a citizen in the United States (and I’ve already started successfully raising money for one situation).
Notably, fees associated with the front end of intercountry adoption generally—i.e., fees for securing the immigration of infants and children who are being adopted—will increase on average about five percent. Thus, while many people complain about the cost of intercountry adoption on the front end, that cost stays pretty flat under the current proposal. The notable exception to this hits hardest those on the back end of adoption: the adult intercountry adoptees who, despite being adopted by US citizen parents, lack citizenship or cannot prove citizenship. They will continue to bear the emotional, social, and economic brunt of current law that has excludes them and makes them scramble to secure a citizenship right they should have received automatically. Now, not only does the process of obtaining citizenship for many intercountry adoptees continue to be fraught with anxiety, complexity, and uncertainty, but the USCIS is also seeking to increase the cost of that process and to eliminate any chance to apply if you lack the financial resources to do so.
What You Can Do: Comment on Proposed Changes
I am a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), a fantastic resource and organization for immigration lawyers and their allies. It has a simple to use advocacy tool to submit comments about the proposed changes, and I encourage people to provide comments about how it is unfair to raise fees and eliminate fee waivers for citizenship-related forms, particularly for intercountry adoptees whose US citizen adoptive parents likely failed to secure a right they should have had automatically upon adoption. That public comment tool is here, and you can get there by also clicking on the button below.
What Else You Can Do: Donate
You can also donate to a specific fund now set up at the non-profit Adoptees United Inc. (where I am on the board, along with others) to help intercountry adoptees with filing fees for citizenship. Donations can be made here, are tax-deductible, and helps to spread the cost of our nation’s failure to provide for its adopted citizens.