Application fee is going up again

BUT a new partial fee waiver will be available

There's a notice about a change in the citizenship application fee in the federal register today:

DHS proposes to establish a three-level fee for the Application for Naturalization (Form N–400).

  • First, DHS would increase the standard fee for Form N–400 from $595 to $640. [Adding in the biometrics fee--which will remain unchanged--the total cost would go from $680 to $725]
  • Second, DHS would continue to charge no fee to ... applicants with approved fee waivers. [Currently, an applicant with a household income at or below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines qualifies for a waiver of their entire fee. This would remain the same.]
  • Third, DHS would charge a reduced fee of $320 for naturalization applicants with family income greater than 150 percent and not more than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. DHS is proposing this change to increase access to United States citizenship. [This partial waiver would end up reducing the fee to $405 (including the biometrics fee) for low-income applicants.]

You can see the full announcement and submit comments through July 5 at:!documentDetail;D=USCIS-2016-0001-0001

Here are some more details for those who want them:

DHS has created a proposed new form, USCIS Form I–942, Request for Reduced Fee, that would be filed with the N–400. The form would provide a convenient guide for applicants to demonstrate that their income meets the level required to pay the reduced fee.

DHS proposes the new reduced fee option to limit potential economic disincentives some eligible applicants may face when deciding whether or not to apply for naturalization. The proposed reduced fee option for low income applicants supports the Administration’s immigration integration policies 52 and the USCIS mission to support aspiring citizens.

Nevertheless, USCIS is funded mainly from fees and we must collect a fee to recover at least some of the costs associated with naturalization. DHS believes the reduced fee would help ensure that those immigrants whose goal it is to apply for naturalization are not unnecessarily limited by their economic means. DHS realizes that other fee payers would be required to bear the cost of the reduced fee, but believes the importance of naturalization justifies this slight shift of burden.

USCIS is uncertain exactly how many new N–400 applicants would be eligible and apply for naturalization as a result of the reduced fee. In addition, DHS has no reliable data indicating how demand for filing an N–400 may change due to adjustments in the fee amount. Nonetheless, research on barriers to naturalization indicates a correlation between the N–400 filing fee and the number of applications submitted to USCIS. As the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration stated: Some evidence of price sensitivity was shown when USCIS increased the cost to naturalize from $400 to $595 (plus the costs of biometrics) in the middle of 2007: the result was a surge of applications just prior to the fee increase. As a result, there were nearly 1.4 million naturalization applications filed in 2007 but just over 500,000 in 2008. 

In addition, USCIS analyzed the 2012 American Community Survey and determined that 10 percent of new citizens who naturalized since 2000 reported incomes between 150 percent and 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Independent universityresearch estimated that about 12 percent of adult lawful permanent residents eligible to naturalize fell within the 150 to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. By averaging the 10 percent and the 12 percent from the two data sources, USCIS estimates 11 percent of average annual Form N–400 filings would be likely to qualify for the lower fee.

The average FY 2016/2017 Application for Naturalization volume estimate is 821,500, excluding military naturalizations. USCIS expects that an average of 90,365 filers, 11 percent of the 821,500, would be eligible for the reduced fee of $405 (including the biometrics fee). Assuming that all 90,365 would have paid the full fee of $725 for their Form N–400 and biometrics, this new N–400 fee would result in approximately $28.9 million in foregone fee revenue associated with adjudication of Form N–400. That amount of USCIS operating expenses would be funded using fee revenue from other fee increases proposed in this rule.