Many immigrants who are legal permanent residents (LPRs, or green card holders) dream of becoming American citizens since they are only a step away.
A qualifying immigrant can become a citizen through a naturalization process by filing the Form N-400. Read the requirements for applying for U.S. citizenship by following this link.
One main hurdle LPRs face is the cost of the application. Immigrants need to pay $725, which includes $640 for citizenship application fees and $85 for a background check or the biometric fee. This is not counting the lawyer costs, if they need help navigating the process. This is a lot of money for a working-class family, especially if more than two members of the same family qualify for the process at the same time.
Recently, several non-profit organizations around the country are stepping up to help low-income individuals overcome the affordability issue of the naturalization process. They are lending money with low or no interest so immigrants can apply and submit their paperwork to the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS).
In Arizona, Chicanos por la Causa (CPLC) – a community development organization – is offering no-interest loans, thanks to a partnership with The Slim Foundation, Arizona Community Foundation and Marisol Federal Credit Union, in an effort to empower the community.
I’m proud to serve as Chicanos por la Causa Board Chair until January 2019.
The benefits of U.S. citizenship are tremendous. You cannot be removed (deported) from the U.S. (unless you have lied to obtain citizenship). You can VOTE and participate more actively in the life of your community, including running for office. Citizens can travel abroad without worry. Also, they may qualify for certain critical jobs related to national security.
Additionally, there are studies that point out that U.S. citizens on average earn more than green card holders.
In 2013, the population of LPRs was calculated at 13,300,000 people. From this group, 8,770,000 were eligible to become citizens through naturalization. But not all eligible people pursue citizenship, even when they are very inclined to.
It is estimated that 200,000 LPRs of Mexican origin live in Arizona, and eight of 10 are eligible to obtain U.S. citizenship. However, only 40 percent of them will start the process.
Follow this link to access the CPLC webpage dedicated to this initiative and start applying for the loan.
This initiative to offer low- or no-interest loans to qualifying permanent residents applying for citizenship is not only for Arizonans. There are several organizations and credit unions across the country offering these incentives. Please research credit unions in your area.
In addition to these funds, there is an organization in Phoenix that is helping permanent residents file their naturalization applications. Please read about the great job Citizenship Now! is doing.