The Immigration and Naturalization Service has proposed raising the fee for applying to become a U.S. citizen from $95 to $225.
The INS last week proposed increasing 30 different immigration fees, noting it is required to fully pass on to customers its costs for providing services. The agency promised, however, that the increases would not take effect until officials can demonstrate that service is improved.
"INS is in a Catch-22 situation," agency Commissioner Doris Meissner said. "We want to improve our services, and we know our customers deserve better service, but in order to get there, we have to charge what it costs."
Included among the proposed fee increases: The cost to become a legal permanent resident would jump from $130 to $220. Replacing a green card would cost $110 instead of $75, while the cost of applying for a work permit would rise from $70 to $100.
INS officials said that the agency must increase the immigration costs because it is losing close to $1 million a day providing its services. Immigration adjudication and naturalization fees are the sole source of funding for those services, and INS has not increased the fees in more than three years.
Meissner said four customer service improvements at INS indicate that fee increases are justified:
- The case backlog is beginning to subside and the applicant wait time is starting to be reduced.
- The uniform use of the direct mail process, in which applications are sent directly to one of the agency's service centers, is allowing INS district offices to focus on conducting interviews.
- The opening of new applicant support centers will shorten the turnaround time for completing FBI background checks.
- The installation of new software to process all incoming naturalization applications will ensure consistency.