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Fees to apply for citizenship jump 80%, immigrants struggle with rising costs

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HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The price to be an American has just gone up. The Department of Homeland Security announced changes to the cost of doing business with those wanting to become citizens on July 31.

The cost of applying for citizenship has gone up 81%. Currentl, legal residents pay $640 to apply for citizenship, but on Oct. 2 the price jumps to $1,170 if they apply by mail. There is a $10 savings if they apply online.

Lizbeth Maysonet, a woman from Costa Rica, accomplished her goal of becoming an American citizen. She considers herself lucky to be sworn in before that October 2 deadline.

“Do you think there will be people that want to become u.S. Citizens that won’t be able to because it costs too much,” asks 8 On Your Side’s Marco Villarreal.

“Yeah! Sure. Yes,” answers Maysonet.

Maysonet says she is now telling all legal residents thinking of applying for citizenship to do it now before the changes go into effect.

Over at Learning Empowered, a non-profit that offers free citizenship classes and legal services, more people are signing up for their classes. They went from 25-30 students registering to 70 students in 3 days. Most of the people they help live 200% below the poverty line.

“Many of these families are one income families, an paying this fee for naturalization is going to be just a drain for many of these families,” says Andrea Lypka, director of Integrated Learning at Learning Empowered.

DHS tells 8 On Your Side that current fees would leave the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services underfunded by a billion dollars a year.

“USCIS is required to examine incoming and outgoing expenditures and make adjustments based on that analysis,” said Joseph Edlow, USCIS deputy director for policy. “These overdue adjustments in fees are necessary to efficiently and fairly administer our nation’s lawful immigration system, secure the homeland and protect Americans.”

The last time USCIS increased fees was in December of 2016.

Another change involves those looking for asylum. For the first time in this country’s history refugees will have to pay $50 to apply for asylum. The United States is now one of 4 countries in the world that charge those seeking asylum.

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