Starting on October 2, 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plan to increase the fee for citizenship applicants. A Massachusetts-based non-profit is challenging the new USCIS rule, suing the agency in federal court to both declare the rule unlawful and enjoin USCIS from enforcing or applying any aspects of the rule.
The proposed rule would increase the fee citizen applicants must pay from $640 to $1,170. This fee increase also applies to N-400 applicants who would have otherwise qualified for reduced fee options because their income was close enough to the poverty level. In addition, the rule shrinks the availability of fee waivers for N-400s and Applications for Certificate of Citizenship. The new rule would limit fee waivers, an often-used method for low-income immigrants seeking citizenship. The rule would limit fee waivers to such groups as Violence Against Women Act self-petitioners, certain special immigrants/immigrant juveniles, and select victims of trafficking, crime, or domestic violence. (See Complaint at 4)
The non-profit challenging the rule, Project Citizenship, claims that this rule essentially creates a wealth test for citizenship, unduly burdening low-income immigrants and even those who provide naturalization services. Project Citizenship argues that the proposed rule is unlawful for three reasons.
First, USCIS failed to follow the notice-and-comment procedures required under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). Second, the proposed rule violates the APA because USCIS’s decision to make these fee changes in the naturalization process is arbitrary and capricious. And finally, that the rule violates the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
Project Citizenship filed its complaint on August 17, 2020, meaning more information, and possibly changes, could be on the horizon as this case proceeds. We will stay on top of this issue and provide you with analysis as it unfolds.