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Immigration Center Warns Fees May Rise

July 31, 1998|TOM SCHULTZ

Planners at the San Juan Orientation Immigrant Center are encouraging permanent legal residents and immigrants who wish to apply for U.S. citizenship to take action and avoid application fees that could soon increase.

"There's a lot of people who have made the decision to become a U.S. citizen and just haven't gotten around to it," said Felipe Kofman, outreach coordinator at the center. "When [the fee hike] goes into effect, it's going to be final. There's no extension."

The Immigration and Naturalization Service proposed to increase the fee from $95 to $225 to counter rising costs. For the rule to take effect, it must be approved and published for 60 days in the Federal Register, a repository of federal announcements, Kofman said.

Kofman said planners at the immigrant center believe that publication could occur as early as Saturday or soon afterward, so the start of the increase 60 days later can coincide with the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1.

He said immigrant center planners hope to help would-be citizens file applications as soon as possible before the increases take effect.

Otherwise, "if there are several members in a family who want to become naturalized, it's going to be a huge expense," Kofman said.

The center is accredited by the Immigration Board of Appeals, giving it the power of attorney in its casework.

For $20 and the citizenship application fee, the center, at 13672 Van Nuys Blvd., Pacoima, represents clients to the INS and provides free videos and books to prepare for citizenship tests, among other services, Kofman said.

For more information, call (818) 896-1156.

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