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Where does the U.S. citizenship application fee go?

In the past we have written posts that touch upon why eligible individuals choose to not seek to become citizens of the United States. Regular readers may remember that one of those reasons is a lack of the finances necessary to complete the process. It currently costs $680 to apply to become a naturalized citizen. It is likely that many are curious about where that money actually goes once it is collected. In today’s post we will explore that issue.

The $680 is actually the total of two separate fees associated with the naturalization process. The smaller portion of the fee, $85, is considered to be a “biometric fee.” This portion covers things associated with the background check that is conducted on each applicant. The remaining amount is considered the application fee. A Department of Homeland Security official indicated that $595 goes directly into the application review process.

More specifically, that portion of the fee covers things such as software used on computers at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, as well as the salary of the individuals operating them. Reportedly very little of the USCIS’s budget is funded by taxpayers.

The fee associated with the naturalization application process has not always been so high. Just over 15 years ago, the application fee was less than $100. At $95, even taking into consideration inflation, that amount is much less than the current fee.

While the $680 may seem like a big chunk of money for those holding green cards, the benefits of being a citizen of the U.S., as opposed to a green card holder, for most, would likely far outweigh the expense. For this reason many may find it worthwhile to find a way to get the money and complete an application. It is possible that a lawyer who handles immigration matters could assist in the naturalization application process.

Source: Time, “Explainer: Why It Costs Immigrants $680 to Apply for Naturalization,” Katy Steinmetz, July 9, 2013

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