Some say freedom is priceless, but for U.S. immigrants, citizenship has a price — and it's one that just got substantially higher.
On July 30th, the cost of applying to be a U.S. citizen — and all of the prerequisite steps — increased for the first time in almost 10 years.
"Our operating costs have gone up," says Dan Kane, spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The fee for U.S. naturalization has more than doubled, from $330 to $675. The application fee to become a permanent resident has increased even more: from $325 to $930.
Kane saw a number of people hurry to finish the process before the new rates took effect. But even after the hike, Kane doesn't think the higher rates will deter immigrants.
"These people are very interested in becoming U.S. citizens, and for them, there's no price tag on American citizenship," he says.
Like Kane, Alvin King noticed a swell of immigrants trying to finish applications before the new rates. King is secretary/treasurer of Visa and Immigration Services Assistance (VISA), which helps immigrants complete citizenship applications.
"Most are applying for the things leading up to citizenship," King says, such as the U.S. permanent resident card, commonly called a green card. Once $190, the green card application fee is now $370.
Many people who didn't get applications in before the fees changed have stopped in the middle of the process.
"These people are working and legal," King says. "Their reaction is, What can we do? They don't have a congressman. They don't have any recourse."
King points out that the increases don't take factors such as income into consideration.
"Immigrants are not used to being treated fairly. But this puts fees out of reach, almost," King says.
José Trejo, who moved to the States from Mexico in 1980, came to VISA to renew his green card and ask about bringing his wife and two children to the States.
"I should have come last month. It's a lot of money," Trejo says.