USCIS Fee Rule Imposes a Wealth Test for Citizenship, Prevents Asylum Seekers, Refugees from Becoming U.S. Residents

August 3, 2020
Contact: Christopher Gray

USCIS Fee Rule Imposes a Wealth Test for Citizenship, Prevents Asylum Seekers, Refugees from Becoming U.S. Residents   

Washington, D.C. — The Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) joined a coalition of leading immigrants’ rights organizations today in denouncing the Trump administration’s decision to finalize a new USCIS Fee Rule drastically increasing the cost of applying for citizenship, receiving a green card or seeking asylum. This unprecedented policy shift puts in place the United States’ first ever wealth test for citizenship, and will prevent millions of green card holders from ever becoming citizens.


“USCIS’ new Fee Rule is just another example of the Trump administration’s immoral focus on changing the demographic composition of our country, and it represents an unlawful and immoral use of executive authority at a moment of great national crisis. The new rule will greatly reduce the number of new U.S. citizens, while also severely limiting the number of refugees, asylum seekers, survivors of domestic violence and survivors of human trafficking and crimes that are able to secure the residency status and benefits to which they are legally entitled.

“By finalizing the largest-ever increase in naturalization fees in the midst of a historic economic downturn, the Trump administration has not only decided to impose our nation’s first-ever wealth test for citizenship, it has also demonstrated its willingness to undermine the rule of law in the service of its ongoing attack on the U.S. immgration system. It is impossible to reconcile the administration’s justification for this unprecedented increase in fees with USCIS’ recent request for a $1.2 billion bailout from Congress. Absent a coherent justification for such a drastic action, the only logical explanation for this decision is that the administration is acting with its own political interests in mind. In an election year, the impact of these changes are especially catastrophic.”


“Imposing these dramatic increases, especially at a time when the global economy is reeling from the impact of COVID-19 is irrational, harmful and misdirected.  The fee increases will impact employers and vulnerable individuals, including asylees for the first time, and those seeking to take the final steps in becoming citizens, thus further hampering the energy, innovation, and drive of immigrants, assets the U.S. needs now more than ever. And at the same time USCIS is seeking a billion dollar bailout from Congress, it has capriciously planned to pass off its inefficiencies to the public by adding an additional 10 percent surcharge on these increased fees that will further hobble our economy and harm our shared prosperity.”


"We firmly denounce the Trump administration's actions to eliminate the fee waiver and dramatically increase the cost of naturalization. As the largest naturalization provider in Washington state, ACRS helps over 700 people apply for citizenship each year. This will hurt and harm older immigrant adults, immigrants with disabilities, and lower-income immigrants, preventing or making it difficult for them to become citizens. This act is the latest in a line of anti-immigrant actions by this administration that includes the Muslim ban, the reduction of refugees allowed to seek safe haven in the U.S. from violence and war, the separation of our families at our borders, the threat to penalize immigrants as a public charge for accessing health, housing and other essential benefits, and attempts to add the citizenship question to the 2020 census to instill fear toward our immigrant communities."


“These fees are yet another example of the Trump administration’s willingness to go to any length to prevent immigrants from becoming full U.S. citizens and voters. With our economy entering a recession and millions laid off, the President should be creating more certainty and support, not imposing new financial burdens on families and closing off opportunities during a pandemic. Tens of thousands of Washington residents – who otherwise meet all requirements for naturalization – will simply be priced out of participating in our democracy and denied their right to vote. That’s not right, and so we’re committed to fighting this rule, and ensure our communities have access to naturalization and other immigration benefits they’re rightfully eligible for.” 

"This fee rule continues this administration's war on immigrants and sets up major barriers for immigrants who aspire to US citizenship. The drastic fee hike and the removal of fee waivers will price out many immigrants who qualify for naturalization in all aspects except the ability to pay.  We will encourage immigrant working families to apply while they can still afford to, and continue to oppose this new rule in any way we can."


CHIRLA condemns the continued assault on immigrant families through the massive fee hikes on naturalization, green card and other services proposed by Trump's USCIS in this cruel fee rule. It even continues the relentless attack on DACA with a smokescreen claiming that no new fees are being imposed. But we know that USCIS has already doubled the price by cutting the renewal period in half even as the President is doing everything possible to kill the program outright. Further, imposing a fee to apply for asylum is an end run to finish off that relief since charging even a penny takes it out of reach for many fleeing persecution, especially those in detention. By increasing fees and ending fee waivers, this administration aims to keep weaponizing a pandemic that has already done outsize damage to our people. We will resist with every fiber of our beings.


This administration’s fee schedule is yet another targeted attack on low income immigrants. This rule — a wealth test — determines who has access to security and citizenship based on how much money they have in their pocket instead of their God-given dignity and value to our communities.


USCIS’s fee rule is the latest regulation that raises the bar of access along economic lines in a way that splits the immigrant community, including refugees, asylees, and asylum seekers, who come to the U.S. seeking protection from persecution. For the thousands of people the IRC works with who meet the qualifications for U.S. citizenship, the unconscionable increases in fees for naturalization will pose a potentially insurmountable barrier at the end of a long road towards permanent protection and security. The increased fees will disproportionately impact families with lower income, older immigrants, those with disabilities, and other vulnerable populations. Denying community members avenues to U.S. citizenship will ultimately harm our communities by diminishing the economic and social contributions of immigrants.



About the Immigrant Legal Resource Center

Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) is a national nonprofit that works with immigrants, community organizations, legal professionals, and policymakers to build a democratic society that values diversity and the rights of all people. Through community education programs, legal training and technical assistance, and policy development and advocacy, the ILRC protects and defends the fundamental rights of immigrant families and communities. As a key part of its mission, ILRC serves as the lead agency for the New Americans Campaign, a non-partisan national campaign aimed at increasing the number of new Americans by ensuring access to the naturalization process and trusted legal assistance.

About the American Immigration Lawyers Association

The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

About the Asian Counseling and Referral Service

Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) offers hope and opportunity in over 40 languages and dialects. We provide one door through which Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders of many generations -- immigrant, refugee, or American born -- can find the resources they need. We help transform the lives of families and individuals by helping people feed their loved ones, access resources, gain English language and work skills, become American citizens, recover from addiction, and achieve mind and body wellness. We serve seniors and people with disabilities, and we connect youth with job training and leadership development opportunities while ensuring they and their families receive the support they need to succeed in a new land. We support AAPIs and other underserved populations by advocating for their communities about issues that matter most to them.

About the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights

Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) was founded in 1986. CHIRLA is a California leader with a national impact made of diverse immigrant families and individuals who act as agents of social change to achieve a world with freedom of mobility, full human rights, and true participatory democracy. CHIRLA’s mission is to achieve a just society fully inclusive of immigrants. CHIRLA organizes and serves individuals, institutions, and coalitions to build power, transform public opinion, and change policies to achieve full human, civil and labor rights. Guided by the power, love, and vision of our community, CHIRLA embraces and drives progressive social change. CHIRLA was formed in response to the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 which made hiring undocumented workers illegal, thus creating a situation ripe for worker exploitation and abuse which have increased since that time.

About OneAmerica

OneAmerica is the largest advocacy organization in Washington State, that advances the fundamental principles of democracy and justice at the local, state, and national levels by building power within immigrant communities in collaboration with key allies. Their The Washington New Americans Program (WNA) connects immigrants and refugees in Washington State to the information and legal services needed to successfully naturalize and exercise their civic voice.

About the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Established in 1986, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is a statewide coalition of more than 100 organizations dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of our diverse society.

About the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, or CLINIC, advocates for humane and just immigration policy. Its network of nonprofit immigration programs — over 370 affiliates in 49 states and the District of Columbia — is the largest in the nation. CLINIC provides substantive legal and program management training and resources, as well as advocacy support at state, local and national levels. 

About the International Rescue Committee

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and over 20 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.