News

SF celebrates court decision blocking USCIS fee increases, urges immigrants to naturalize now

Mother smiling at small baby
San Francisco leaders celebrated a federal court decision that blocks U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from increasing fees for citizenship and other immigration benefits.

On Tuesday, a federal judge in the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction blocking the fee increases days before they were set to take effect. USCIS had planned to increase fees, and largely eliminate fee waivers, for naturalization and other immigration benefits starting October 2, 2020. The decision means that USCIS fees will not increase on October 2, 2020, and fee waivers will still be available for qualifying applicants.

San Francisco’s Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs and the San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative lauded the judge’s decision, which gives immigrants more time to apply for a fee waiver and pay the current fees. But City and community leaders are encouraging immigrants not to wait.

“The San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative (SFPCI) applauds the court’s decision,” said Anni Chung, president and CEO of Self-Help for the Elderly, the Initiative’s lead organization. “Since the inception of SFPCI in 2013, a vast majority of our participants were assisted with fee waivers and almost 10,000 LPRs (lawful permanent residents) became U.S. citizens.”

Funded by the City and local foundation partners, the San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative has held 50 free workshops across San Francisco, provided legal screenings to nearly 15,000 immigrants, and saved applicants a total of nearly $4.5 million in application fees.

“San Francisco is committed to making citizenship more accessible, inclusive and affordable for our residents,” said Adrienne Pon, executive director of the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA) and a co-founder of the Initiative.

 

The administration’s new fee rule would eliminate most fee waivers, and dramatically increase fees for naturalization from $725 to $1,170. It would double the cost of applying for a green card and related fees from $1,125 to $2,270, and charge a fee for asylum for the first time in American history. The rule was challenged by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., International Rescue Committee, OneAmerica, Asian Counseling and Referral Service, and Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. Meanwhile, City and community leaders say those eligible for citizenship and other immigration benefits should apply now, and it is crucial for applicants who need financial assistance to get the help they need.

San Francisco is continuing its partnership with local non-profit organization Mission Asset Fund to help applicants cover the cost of citizenship and other immigration applications. The City of San Francisco provides a 50% match through Mission Asset Fund for applicants who live, work, or attend school in San Francisco. Applicants can use the 50% match to pay the filing fee for naturalization or other immigration benefits including Temporary Protected Status (TPS), U visas for crime victims, family petitions, or renewal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Applicants can make an individual appointment with a San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship partner organization at sfcitizenship.org, or leave a message on one of their multilingual hotlines:

· English: 415-662-8901

· Spanish: 415-662-8902

· Chinese: 415-295-5894

· Filipino: 415-692-6798

· Russian: 415-754-3818 

 

###
 

About the San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative
The San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative was established in 2013 by the late Mayor Edwin M. Lee as a public-private partnership between local foundations and the City and County of San Francisco’s Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA) and was created to promote citizenship and civic participation among San Francisco’s naturalization-eligible immigrants.
Connect with The San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative
www.sfcitizenship.org

About the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA)
The Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA) is a policy, compliance, direct services and grantmaking office. OCEIA’s mission is to promote inclusive policies and foster immigrant assistance programs that lead to full civic, economic and linguistic integration. OCEIA seeks a safe, engaged and inclusive San Francisco where everyone can contribute and thrive.

Connect with OCEIA: www.sf.gov/oceia