The Costs of Immigration

The cost of applying for naturalization in the U.S. is $680, according to TIME. Naturalization is the process that immigrants follow after they are issued a green card, in order to become a U.S. citizen. There are several politicians across the country, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, that are upset with the high price.

To help offset these costs, organizations are helping out millions of the nation’s 8.5 million immigrants that choose naturalization. TIME broke down the cost of becoming a citizen and found that $595 of the total price is for an application fee. The remaining $85 is a fee that’s put toward costs used for fingerprinting and background checks.

Another part of the naturalization cost that is upsetting organizations and politicians is that immigrants are required to pay the fee even if their application is denied. According to TIME, there were 65,000 immigrants naturalized in April after the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approved their applications. However, there were about 8,000 who paid the fee and were denied green cards.

While other government organizations are issued a budget with funds from taxpayers, the USCIS is a fee-based agency. This means they operate using funds collected through fees. TIME said more than 90 percent of the agency’s operating costs are covered by fees, which means that the money collected from immigrants are used to pay for things like employee salaries.

There are those politicians who oppose the fees and claim that the high cost is discouraging to legal immigrants who want to become citizens. Financial and administrative barriers were cited as the third top reason for Latino permanent residents who had not yet applied for naturalization, the source said when citing a 2012 Pew survey. Approximately 18 percent of those permanent residents cited these barriers as the main reason for not applying.

Then there are those who support the high cost of naturalization. According to TIME, USCIS Press Secretary Chris Bentley argued the fees are there because the organization needs to break even and use the money to run to agency. The fee for a naturalization application in 1997 was $95. The fee jumped from $320 to its current price in 2007.