Phoenix, Feb 1: Immigrants applying to become citizens or permanent residents of the United States may have to pay higher application fees, US officials said.
The fee increases, which are subject to a review process, are part of a drive by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services to overhaul its strained processing system, which leaves many legal immigrants waiting months or years for a green card or naturalisation as US citizens.
The fee increases would provide ''appropriate funding to meet customer service needs and national security requirements, and (modernize) an outdated business structure,'' the agency said yesterday.
Under the proposed increases, citizenship applications would cost 595 dollars, up from 330 dollars, while permanent residency applications would jump to 905 dollars from 325 dollars.
If approved, these fees would be valid for a two-year period starting in October.
Pro-immigration lobbyists were critical of plans to boost charges, which they said won't guarantee improve service.
''With the level of service showing no signs of improvement, the announcement of yet another round of fee increases ... is dispiriting,'' said Douglas Rivlin, spokesman for the Washington-based National Immigration Forum lobbying group.
''The national interest is served when we facilitate the citizenship and assimilation of immigrants into fully participating members of society,'' he added. ''This substantial fee increase moves us in the wrong direction.''