The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is proposing a new rule that would end the fee waivers it grants for some low-income and disabled immigrants. The fee waivers are important for many immigrants because of the high price the government charges for nearly all applications. For example, an immigrant applying for citizenship must write a $640 check to the Department of Homeland Security. If a permanent resident has their “Green Card” stolen, they can expect to pay $455 in government fees to replace it.
Under current rules, fee waivers can be granted for certain reasons. One of the most common is because the person receives “a means-tested public benefit.” Medicaid and SNAP are two examples of these. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) of the DHS has published a proposed rule ending eligibility based on receipt of a means-tested public benefit.
While this proposed change seems esoteric, if it is made it will cut tens of thousands of people each year off from applying for a fee waiver. Without these fee waivers, we will see a decline in some major categories of applications to USCIS. Most worrying is that there will be a decrease in legal permanent residents able to apply for citizenship.
We are already seeing the Trump-engineered decline in the number of refugees admitted to the United State and in the number of new immigrants admitted here. While this proposal would not end all fee waivers, it would chip away at the opportunities for low-income immigrants to maintain their legal status and become citizens. That hurts us all.
The USCIS Federal Register page on the proposal is here.