After two decades of waiting, Patricia Ramirez of New Mexico was filled with joy when she finally became eligible for a green card a few months ago. To Ramirez, who came to the U.S. undocumented, becoming a lawful permanent resident would give her more security living in the U.S., allow her to visit her family in Mexico, and put her one step closer to becoming a U.S. citizen.

Now, the main obstacle getting in her way is the cost of applications. Ramirez, a house cleaner, has been saving for months to afford the $2,225 in fees for a green card and other forms. Under a new federal proposal, her paperwork may become even more expensive.

“It’s already been a very difficult process, difficult to get information, difficult to save money,” Ramirez told NPR. “I’m so worried and stressed about this and what sacrifices I’ll have to make to afford this.”

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that oversees legal immigration, is planning to raise costs for an array of applications including ones required for citizenship naturalization, to obtain a green card, or to legally work in the U.S. as a noncitizen.

The increases vary, but many immigration attorneys are concerned that the fee hikes could place an undue burden on low-income immigrants — particularly those seeking lawful permanent residency, commonly known as a green card, which allows immigrants long-term stay in the U.S. It is also an important step to become eligible for citizenship.

Under the proposal, Ramirez’s applications will cost $1,500 more than before, according to legal representative Shalini Thomas, who represents Ramirez through the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center.


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