New Americans Being Priced Out of U.S. Citizenship

report demonstrates that the high fee is discouraging potential applicants


Report: Promising New Americans Being Priced Out of U.S. Citizenship

Advocates launch “Becoming Americans” campaign calling on Congress, U.S.C.I.S. to support legal “Green Card” holder immigrants pursuing dream of American citizenship


This week a group of researchers and immigrant advocacy organizations released “Nurturing Naturalization: Could Lowering the Fee Help?” This report was conducted by the University of Southern California Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII) and commissioned by the National Partnership for New Americans. It indicates that the $680 naturalization fee has become a major barrier to applying for U.S. citizenship for legal immigrants in low-wage jobs, a group that overwhelmingly desires to become American.

In conjunction with the release of the report, the National Partnership for New Americans and the National Immigration Forum announced the “Becoming Americans” campaign to allow hardworking immigrants to pursue their dream of becoming U.S. citizens. The advocates are calling on USCIS to examine its fee structure and to reduce the costs of U.S. citizenship, especially for the working poor. The groups also will call on Congress to recognize the value of citizenship by investing in immigrant integration and putting naturalization fees within reach for our would-be newest Americans.

The “Nurturing Naturalization” report builds on a report released last week by the Pew Hispanic Center (“The Path Not Taken”). Both reports indicate that the American Dream of citizenship has become unaffordable for many immigrants to the U.S. — especially Mexican immigrants. The Pew report further indicates that fully 93 percent of Latino immigrants would become U.S. citizens if they could afford to do so. The new USC report goes a step further, exploring why citizenship is beyond reach for so many, the high cost.

The current immigration debate whirls around whether Congress will create a “path to citizenship” for the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. But few are paying attention to the 8.5 million legal immigrants (“Green Card” holders) who are currently eligible and want to apply for U.S. citizenship, but who have yet to do so.

Original analysis in the “Nurturing Naturalization” report indicates that: “Fee increases trigger a dramatic decline in the naturalization of less-educated (and likely lower income) immigrants, an increase in the number of years immigrants wait to become citizens, and a change in the national origin of the naturalizing population, in particular a relative reduction in those who were born in Mexico.”

This report has been delivered to USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas and the Partnership has met with him several times asking that he reduce the obstacles preventing new Americans from becoming U.S. citizens.

Nurturing Naturalization: Could Lowering the Fee Help? is available here: 

The Path Not Taken is available here: