Everything You Should Know About USA Citizenship Application Fees

Would you like the great news, good news, or the neutral news first? Well, let’s start with the neutral: The United States Naturalization Citizenship application comes with a $680 price tag.

The Great, Good, and Neutral About Fees

That is probably the toughest news in this article and you handled it well. Go you! Why neutral news first? Well, it is good to talk about the application filing fee upfront because now we can focus on why it costs that much and, if necessary, how to possibly get a fee waiver or other financial help to apply for USA citizenship.

Speaking of fee waivers, that is the good news: fee waivers are available for those that are experiencing financial hardship or meet other certain qualifications, which we will discuss below. In short, you may not have to pay a portion or all of the application filing fee. That is definitely good news! Right?

Informational Video — How to pay USCIS Immigrant Fee online

And now the great news, once you successfully fill out the application, send the appropriate filing fee (if any), and get approved, you will become a USA citizen! That is not only great news, but also money well spent. Plus, if you did not pay any fees, the news is even greater!

At this point you may be wondering why we chose to the term ‘neutral’ instead of the word ‘bad.’ To simply answer your question, the filing fee is a necessary piece of the citizenship puzzle, but as stated earlier, you may be eligible for fee relief. Thus, although it is an unavoidable part of the process, there are ways to lessen, balance, and neutralize the financial burden.

Fee Breakdown

The fact is, gaining citizenship to another country costs time and money, but the benefits are, obviously, worthwhile. Again, the filing fee is $595, plus and additional $85 biometric services fee, for a total cost of $680 payable to the Department of Homeland Security. While, this cost is prohibitive for some people, it is on par with many countries around the world. For example, some Colombian citizenship visas are $400+, the Australian application is about $285(AUD), and a United Kingdom naturalization application is at least £1236. The fees are used to pay employee salaries, have community information programs, and help alleviate operating costs. Additionally, the biometrics services fees pay for background checks and security screenings like fingerprinting, digital signatures, and official photos.

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To some people, the aggregate cost could be a financial deterrent to gaining citizenship status, however, there are options and organizations that will either pay the application fees or help people apply for federal fee waivers. So, if you are experiencing financial hardship or otherwise are unable to pay, exhaust your options and opportunities for fee waiver relief to help you apply for USA citizenship. Stay determined because the fee is an obstacle you can overcome with available resources.

Waivers and Other Financial Help

Fee waivers come in a variety of options. To illustrate, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offers an automatic biometric services fee waiver for applicants over 75 years old. Also, sections 328 and 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) gives military applicants an automatic fee waiver. Meaning, if a person has served honorably in the military, including during times of hostility, they may be automatically exempt from naturalization application filing fees.

Obviously, the exemptions mentioned above only apply to a limited number of applicants looking to become USA citizens. For others in need of a fee relief, USCIS offers options on “Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver.” USCIS will also accept a letter that states you are requesting a fee waiver and that also provides all relevant information, signatures, and accompanying documentation. The current edition of I-912 is an 11-page version released on 4/25/16, but previous versions are accepted. We suggest, however, using the latest released version. Of important note, there is no additional filing fee associated with the request for fee waiver.

According to the instructions, Form I-912 is a general purpose fee waiver form for anyone that is “unable to pay the filing fees or biometric services fees.” In addition to I-912 or a fee waiver request letter, you must demonstrate a financial need or hardship. In supporting documentation, you could provide information that shows that you receive federal, local, or state benefits based on a lower income-level, your household income is at least 150% below the federal poverty line, and/or you are unable to pay due to unexpected financial emergencies. Some generally accepted proof items are tax returns, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) documents, and receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Tax information could be used to prove poverty levels, while SSI and SNAP are examples of Means-Tested Benefits. There are specifications for which documentation is necessary to prove each exemption type so be sure to check beforehand. As with from N-400, Form I-912, can be completed online in a .pdf file.

Of course, as with all things related to the USA Naturalization process, be truthful since being untruthful or misrepresenting information will likely be an automatic denial and could jeopardize your entire N-400 application.

Other than USCIS, different organizations provide partial or full fee relief to help alleviate the costs. More, some organizations, although not providing fee relief will provide pro bono legal assistance with the fee waiver request. To help find these organizations, use local USCIS-funded programs.

Helpful tips

Whether submitting from I-912 or a waiver request letter, ensure that all relevant document is provided so that there is no reason to delay or deny your fee waiver request. Also, provide full-English translations for any portion of the request. If a translation is not provided, your request may not be denied immediately. Additionally, make sure to provide all necessary signatures. USCIS states that missing signatures is one of the primary reasons they deny requests. A signature could be a $680 oversight. Yikes! Lastly, send the fee waiver request with the application you are submitting, not alone or at an earlier or later date.

How to Pay

Application filing fee payments may be made in a manner most convenient to you including, personal or cashier’s check, money order, or credit card. If sending a check or money order, make it payable to the Department of Homeland Security. If paying by credit card, you must use Form G-1450, “Authorization for Credit Card Transactions.” This is a simple form that only asks for biographic and credit card information. Fortunately, there are no additional fees to pay with your credit card. When mailing your N-400 application, place your payment method on top of the application so it is the first thing seen by whomever is handling it.

Final Thoughts Checklist:

  1. Know the cost of the form you are filing. Application N-400 for USA citizenship is $680, but other forms have different costs.
  2. Check you and your family members’ fee exemption status. Being 75+ years or having served in the armed forces should mean automatic fee exemption.
  3. Exhaust all options for fee relief. Do not get discouraged about the price and decide not to apply. You deserve this and there are organizations and resources that help relieve the financial burden. An inability to pay the application fee should not stop you from becoming a citizen. It may take a little effort, but the resources are there.
  4. Make sure to mail the fee or fee waiver with the application. Put all fee related items on top of the application. Ensure that everything is signed and all necessary supporting documentation is included. Remember, your application preparedness also extends to the fees portion.
  5. Finally, and of great importance, stay encouraged through the process! Yes, $680 is no small amount of money and you will invest a significant amount of time preparing a fee waiver request, but the prize of USA citizenship is worth it.

Please note that USA naturalization application fees may change and all prices listed are current as of the writing of this article.

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