- The Washington Times - Monday, October 24, 2016

The cost of citizenship is going up — after the election.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on Monday finalized the first fee increase in six years, raising the price of naturalization by $45, to $640, and nearly every other form is also seeing an increase as the agency tries to keep pace with inflation.

Business applications will take some of the biggest hits: Applying for a visa as an investor will skyrocket from $6,230 to nearly $18,000, while applying to come as an entrepreneur will now cost $3,675, up from $1,500 before.

But the administration worked to keep down costs for illegal immigrants applying for President Obama’s deportation amnesty for Dreamers, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Those applicants have to pay $85 to have their fingerprints taken — a cost that isn’t rising — and another $410 to apply for a work permit, up just 8 percent.

USCIS is supposed to be self-funded based on fees, and the agency is supposed to set those fees to recoup costs associated with each application.

The timing of this latest increase will draw scrutiny as it comes at the end of Mr. Obama’s tenure and goes into effect in December, or after this year’s election.

“We are mindful of the effect fee increases have on many of the customers we serve. That’s why we decided against raising fees as recommended after the fiscal year 2012 and 2014 fee reviews. However, as an agency dependent upon users’ fees to operate, these changes are now necessary to ensure we can continue to serve our customers effectively,” said USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez.

Immigrant rights activists made a push to try to get 1 million green card holders eligible for citizenship to naturalize and then signed up to vote against GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, and Republicans have accused the Obama administration of trying to speed citizenship applications to help do that.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican and Judiciary Committee chairman, obtained memos from an office in Texas urging officers to meet election-season needs.

Overall, USCIS said it needed a 21 percent increase in revenue.

But since it wanted to hold down hikes on some of its more popular benefits, such as citizenship or the deportation amnesty, it needed to increase other costs by much more. Genealogy research request costs spiked by more than 200 percent, while some business applications more than doubled.

Asking to stay in the U.S. despite having been ordered deported will now cost $930, up from $585.

And even though the fee to apply for citizenship is going up 8 percent, USCIS has created a discount rate for poor immigrants who can’t afford the full cost, the agency said.

The fee increases were proposed in May, and USCIS finalized the rule Monday.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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