Immigrants on public assistance do not need to prove that they can be self-sufficient when applying for naturalization, and immigrants receiving benefits can apply for a filing fee waiver, immigration law columnist Allan Wernick explained Wednesday in a column in the New York Daily News.
Wernick, who has been answering common immigration questions, was asked, “I am receiving public assistance. Can I nevertheless naturalize?”
“Yes,” Wernick responded. “Naturalization applicants need not prove that ability to support themselves to become a U.S. citizen. Since you are receiving public assistance (sometimes called ‘welfare’) you qualify for a fee waiver.”
“That means that you can naturalize without paying the $680 filing fee. To apply for a fee waiver, you file USCIS form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver with form N-400, Application for Naturalization,” he continued.
“Sometimes a person has cheated in applying for a public benefit and gets caught at the naturalization interview. Lying to get a public benefit is a ground for the USCIS to deny you U.S. citizenship. That’s why some people believe that it is risky for people getting public assistance. However, it is not being poor that makes a person ineligible to naturalize, it is the lying about benefit eligibility.”
In recent months several GOP lawmakers have sounding the alarm about what they believe to be a lax enforcement of a portion of immigration law that ostensibly prohibits individuals who are likely to become primarily reliant on public assistance, or a public charge, from entering the country or seek a status adjustment.
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, public charge does not apply in naturalization proceedings.
USCIS public affairs officer Daniel Cosgrove explained to The Daily Caller there are are some caveats, but the public charge restrictions generally do not apply when seeking citizenship.
“If it came to light during the naturalization interview or process that the individual misrepresented the facts during the immigrant visa or adjustment of status phase, that would go to their good moral character,” Cosgrove said. “So in other words if somebody lied about receiving government assistance back when they were applying for or seeking lawful, permanent residency, it could affect their naturalization application.”