Cities for Citizenship Celebrates USCIS Partial Fee Waiver Announcement

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May 4th, 2016

Cities for Citizenship Celebrates USCIS Partial Fee Waiver Announcement
Mayors champion naturalization, reduce barriers to citizenship for working poor

Cities for Citizenship, a major national initiative aimed at increasing citizenship among eligible U.S. permanent residents in cities across the country, is celebrating yesterday’s announcement by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of a partial fee waiver that will lower the cost and reduce barriers to citizenship for eligible, working poor legal permanent residents.

The Cities for Citizenship initiative, co-chaired by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, partners with over 20 cities across the country to promote naturalization and enhance efforts in communities to assist eligible legal permanent residents through the citizenship process. The National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), a founding partner of C4C, has led the advocacy to reduce the barriers to naturalization for years. NPNA has worked to introduce a full fee waiver, stabilize the overall naturalization fee, and secure a partial fee waiver for the working poor. Founding C4C partners who have also fought for reducing barriers to citizenship include Center for Popular Democracy and Citi Community Development.

In 2013, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, together with Congressman Luis Gutierrez, penned this New York Times op-ed, “Priced Out of Citizenship”, that underlines the cost barrier to naturalization and calls for a sensible fee structure.

In 2014, Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore, Mayor Charlie Hales of Portland, Mayor Francis Slay of St. Louis, and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City co-sponsored a resolution at the US Conference of Mayors which urged USCIS and Department of Homeland Security to “make policy changes that will increase the number of U.S. citizens from the pool of legal permanent residents”.

Yesterday, listening to the voices of Cities for Citizenship Mayors and national partners, USCIS announced a proposed rule change to their fee schedule, a restructuring of the fees the agency charges for immigration forms and services. The changes would include an overall increase in the naturalization fee from $595 to $640, not including biometrics–and a partial fee waiver of $320 for those individuals eligible for naturalization and living between 150-200 percent of poverty. For families of four, the new partial fee waiver will apply to those earning between $36,450-48,600. This partial fee waiver will make the rights and responsibilities of U.S. Citizenship affordable to an estimated 1 million working poor legal permanent residents.

The fee changes will be open to public comment this summer, and the changes are set to be implemented in the beginning of Fiscal Year 2017. Cities for Citizenship, together with national partners, plans to submit a comment and participate in the process to inform our communities of the changes.

For more information, please email cities4citizenship@populardemocracy.org