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Immigration services cost increases affect would-be Americans

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office has raised rates for filing naturalization paperwork for the first time since 2010. News reports show that the price increases, which are designed to protect against fraud and improve administrative support, increase costs for immigration needs by an average of 21 percent. This agency, which is funded exclusively through application fees, is justifying the rate hike by arguing that additional money will improve customer service and agency efficiency.

Experts anticipate a flood of new paperwork submissions in the coming weeks as large groups of potential applicants attempt to dodge the higher costs. Reduced filing waivers are available for some applicants seeking immigration services, but those waivers are closely tied to the Federal Poverty Guideline and may not help everyone. Immigration gurus say that the increased filing costs will have a chilling effect on the immigrant community, calling the new rates a "burden" for even a family of two.

Immigration advocates also say that the backlog of immigration cases is unlikely to be assuaged by an increase in paperwork filing costs. Scores of Florida residents are seeking permanent residence and citizenship, with many waiting on job opportunities that require this change of status. The increased filing fees, while ostensibly helping prevent fraud and helping with administrative costs, will have a measurable effect on those seeking citizenship.

These changes in the Department of Homeland Security could have implications for your immigration filing status. Seeking permanent residence or citizenship is actually a complicated process that requires the help of a legal professional. An attorney can help you avoid additional fees or processing delays from paperwork errors.

Source: CNBC, "Immigration fees jump for the first time since 2010, making it tougher for would-be Americans," Mariam Amini, Dec. 24, 2016

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