‘I went into debt’: Federal judge issues last-minute hold on naturalization fee increase

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Hundreds of families are in limbo, worried about their road to citizenship as the government threatens to raise fees on items like naturalization applications.

The new fees were expected to take place on October 2nd.

One of the people rushing to meet the deadline was Utah County’s, Mario Garcia.

Garcia wants Utah to be his home. He graduated from BYU. It’s the place he met his wife, and chose to raise his children in a new home. The one thing holding him back from completing his ultimate goal is U.S. Citizenship.

“My kids are U.S. Citizens, I want to stay with my family here and contribute to this country,” he said.

For 17 years Garcia’s been in the immigration system working to get his citizenship. He was shocked to hear in early September naturalization application fees would go from $640 to $1,170, a difference of $530.

“I went into debt, you know, my immigration status means a lot to me,” said Garcia. ” I actually was planning on doing it after the election, you know, because it’s kind of like the government is busy right now.”

Garcia is not the only one who rushed to get paperwork filed.

“I have a lot of clients that feel really stressed about the fee increase and so that is why we have been pushing so hard to get as many files out as we can before that deadline,” said Immigration Attorney Jennifer Ha.

Ha is preparing clients for other fee increases involving the path to citizenship.

“Before you could file to get your green card and you could get a work permit and a travel permit included in one price, but after October 2 you have to pay over $500 for your work permit, and over $500 for your travel permit. That’s on top of everything else,” Ha said. “So that is almost a $1,100 increase if we miss the boat by one day. That is a big chunk for these families.”

Ha says the government is looking to raise fees on work visas, green cards, naturalization applications, and travel permits.

She recommends families who are considering filing for citizenship to file online which would secure a case number and transfer of payment.

Ha says if you have to file hard copies to use next-day delivery with a signature and tracking information.

“Even if they reject your file you can appeal it by proving the delivery confirmation,” she said.

Garcia adds, “I’m going into debt right now but at the same time, it’s just not only paying the money, it’s time-consuming, and we just need to pay attention to a lot of details.”

Late Tuesday night, a federal judge issued a temporary hold on a case involving the naturalization application fees to make sure the fee increases are legal. It’s not clear how long that process will take.

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