Remember the rush for U.S. citizenship in 2007, just before the fees increased? Since then, new applications for naturalization have fallen way down and are still very low, according to U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Services.
To give you an idea, follow the blue line in the chart below. That shows the applications spiking in July of 2007, then dropping way down and staying pretty flat through January of this year. The red line shows the backlog in pending cases, gradually dropping over the same period.
I wrote in The Journal News yesterday about how the $675 fee and the bad economy seem to be prolonging the lull. I heard this morning that Southern Westchester BOCES is seeing about half the usual demand for its citizenship classes, which help people prepare for the exam. (Update: The agency checked its statistics and found that the decline was smaller than previously thought. Last year at this time, the program had 278 students, said Maria Morgan, Director of Adult and Community Services. The current number is 242, down 36 students, or about 9%. Information about the classes is available here.)
In Rockland, the Haitian-American Cultural and Social Organization has seen people put off citizenship because of the fee, Executive Director Rose Leandre told me today. Her organization has helped eight senior citizens by paying the amount of the increase, about $265, she said. HACSO had a state grant that allowed them to wave the $50 fee for citizenship assistance. It used another grant, originally for computer literacy classes, to help individuals with the fee payment.
The lull is both good and bad news for USCIS: It has given the agency time to clear the backlog, which generated a lot of criticism. But it means less revenue at a time when there are big plans to modernize the agency.
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