Post from November 4, 2014

It has long been an advocacy goal of New Americans Campaign partners to get the government to lower the naturalization fee. A steep fee increase in 2007 has been a barrier to citizenship for low-income immigrants who at the very least put off their application for citizenship until they can afford it. Lowering the fee would lead some immigrants to apply sooner.

One method of helping immigrants pay for their naturalization application fees has been to give them loans. There are a number of citizenship micro-loan programs across the U.S., often partnering financial institution, such as a credit union, and a community organization. Here are some examples.

In September, the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions and Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees launched the Northwest Area Asset-Building Initiative. Grants were awarded to OneAmerica in Seattle, Washington, in partnership with the Lower Valley Credit Union, which offers low interest citizenship loans. The other grantee in the initiative is Ascentra Credit Union of Iowa, in partnership with the Diversity Services Center of Iowa. The credit union is providing low-interest loans for a variety of immigration services, including naturalization applications.

In San Francisco, the Mission Asset Fund takes a different tack.  It uses lending circles, in which immigrants pool their money, and take turns borrowing from the pool.

The MariSol Federal Credit Union in Phoenix, Arizona, offers no-interest loans for citizenship, as well as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Casa of Maryland’s Citizenship Maryland program offers low-interest loans to cover the citizenship application cost, to be repaid in six months.

In Boston, the Naveo Credit Union, in partnership with the Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers and the Greater Boston Citizenship Initiative, offers an interest-free “Dreamer Loan” for citizenship applications.