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The Cost of Citizenship: The Rising Price Tag of Naturalization

Nothing about immigrating to another country is easy. Imagine applying for college but needing to submit so much documentation that the application instructions alone required 18 pages of text! Furthermore, imagine knowing that the result of your application could derail your entire life. Add the extra hurdle of having to do so in a foreign language and—just so we’re being realistic—imagine that those life-line colleges spew constant rhetoric against you. Draw this process out for years and, honestly…you don’t even have half the picture. 

The paperwork constitutes, at best, a sketch of the trials of naturalization and says nothing of the endless “soft” costs: learning a new social system, brushing off the anxiety of accented speech, swallowing the cost of missed family weddings, funerals, and holidays; weathering the gradual fracture of identity and sense of self; wondering, worrying when you’ll next be blindsided by discrimination…the list is long and hard to put into words, especially if forced to do so in a foreign language. 

And then there’s the actual cash-and-money price tag. The current administration has proposed a 61% hike of the cost of becoming a U.S. citizen, upping the price from an already-inflated $725 to a crippling $1,170—and that’s just the application fee. In tangible terms, we’re talking roughly one week’s pay for the average U.S. household… except immigration households, on average, earn 14% less than those of natural-born citizens. Imagine struggling to cover month to month costs and finding yourself faced with a bill that gobbles up more than 25% of your paycheck. Not fun.

Boundless, a firm offering immigration services, has labeled the move an anti-immigration tactic. Seeing it as anything else is a challenge when, in addition to the proposed fee hike, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has introduced an additional barrier. As of December 10, 2019, applicants who would have prior qualified for a fee waiver, now need to submit a tax transcript from the IRS in order to receive such relief. Read here to learn why those in greatest need are also those least able to attain this document. 

Moves such as the proposed fee hike and the added required documentation constitute a weaponization of government programs. In the current political climate, this is as unsurprising as it is inappropriate. Red tape is not a replacement for a functional immigration program. Now, more than ever, those seeking to settle in the Land of the Free are advised to seek out honest, compassionate, professional legal aid. 

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