Fee increase triggers immigration applications deluge

WASHINGTON (AP) - Millions of people who applied for naturalization to beat a midsummer fee increase are caught in a paperwork pileup that threatening their chance to vote in next year's presidential election.

The application backlog is so large that Citizenship and Immigration Services is months behind schedule in returning receipts for checks written to cover fees - an early step in the process.

Service centers in Nebraska and Texas have the longest delays. The Texas Service Center is working on applications dating from July 26, according to the agency's latest Web posting.

Citizenship and Immigration Services director Emilio Gonzalez says it was not anticipated the volume of applications would increase by that much.

Gonzalez ordered his staff to give priority to naturalizations, but some applicants will miss voting in primaries, which begin in January.

The immigration agency would not say how many applications it has received.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association said it was told by agency officials that 3.5 million applications had come in over a two-month period. The agency projected a workload of 3.2 million applications for fiscal years 2008 and 2009.

On the Net:

Citizenship and Immigration Services: http://www.uscis.gov/

Ya es Hora. !Ciudadania! campaign: http://www.yaeshora.info/