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Originally published Wednesday, December 6, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Citizenship fees may rise to prevent backlogs

The fees that immigrants pay for citizenship and permanent-residency petitions will increase as officials try to prevent more backlogs in...

The Associated Press

DALLAS — The fees that immigrants pay for citizenship and permanent-residency petitions will increase as officials try to prevent more backlogs in the system, the director of the nation's immigration service said Tuesday.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Emilio Gonzalez said that the amount of the increases is still being determined but that he expects it to be significant.

"I envision that it'll go up a fair amount," he said during a visit to Dallas. "We're a business. We're not allowed to be deficient."

Immigrants applying for citizenship now pay $330, or $325 for permanent-residency documentation known as a "green card." Applicants also pay a $70 fingerprinting fee. They could see the new prices for immigration petitions by April, Gonzalez said.

Citizenship and Immigration Services processes applications for citizenship, permanent residence, work permits and other immigration documents. During the past few years, the agency has been working through a backlog that kept some immigrants waiting up to three years for green cards or citizenship.

The agency is mainly funded by application fees and some appropriations from the federal government, which usually target specific programs. It has a $2 billion budget, but Gonzalez said that's not enough.

The additional money from higher fees would fund hiring more staff to work through applications, training employees, renovating buildings and improving technology, Gonzalez said.

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