Monday, October 28, 2019
Immigrants applying for citizenship will no longer be able to use receipt of government benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps or housing assistance as a qualifying condition to seek a waiver of an application fee for citizenship or a green card, under a policy change announced by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Applicants will instead need to prove that they are facing financial hardship, which is a more difficult process requiring substantial documentation and possibly attorney assistance. The change will take effect Dec. 2.
That means that fewer immigrants will be able to afford to pay the hefty fees for citizenship applications and green card renewals — which are $540 and $725 (plus biometrics) respectively — especially if they want to apply on behalf of multiple family members. Legal aid groups say it could affect tens of thousands, or up to two-thirds, of applicants annually who seek fee waivers, according to Vox.
USCIS defended the move Friday as a way to cut costs and standardize the criteria for who is eligible for a fee waiver, given that means-tested benefit eligibility varies substantially from state to state. They say they cannot predict how the new requirements will affect the number of fee waivers sought or granted.