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Immigrants applying for citizenship can still get fee waived while lawsuit moves forward

In this 2012 file photo, George Washington's signature is seen on the president’s personal copy of the Acts of the first Congress (1789). Immigrants who want to become U.S. citizens must meet a long list of requirements, including passing a civics test.
Alex Brandon
/
The Associated Press
In this 2012 file photo, George Washington's signature is seen on the president’s personal copy of the Acts of the first Congress (1789). Immigrants who want to become U.S. citizens must meet a long list of requirements, including passing a civics test.";

The Trump administration wants to make it more difficult for immigrants to get the $725 naturalization fee waived when they are applying for U.S. citizenship. But, applicants can still get a waiver under the old system while legal issues are resolved in the courts. 

 

The City of Seattle and immigrant rights groups sued the Department of Homeland Security, which includes the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, late last year when the federal government said it would make it harder to waive the naturalization fee. A judge granted a request to put the change on hold while the suit works its way through the courts.

The city says letting immigrants easily get a waiver is vital. The Asian Counseling and Referral Service points out that, in 2018, nearly 65 percent of its naturalization clients qualified for the fee waiver. Many said they wouldn't be able to become U.S. citizens if they had to pay the fee.

While the proposed change would still allow fee waivers, the process would be much more cumbersome. You'd have to do more than just present a letter verifying you're on Medicaid and qualify as low-income, for example.

Opponents of the waiver change say the administration’s move is just one piece of broader plan to make it more difficult and expensive to become a U.S. citizen.

 

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.