Reducing Barriers to Naturalization: Citizenship Loans

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.

Posted on November 4, 2014

Our Impact

  • The Campaign has completed over 3,700 naturalization workshops and clinics.
  • Over 250,000 citizenship applications completed since July 2011.

    Saved aspiring citizens and their families over $206million in legal and application fees.
  • Adopted scalable technology. MP3 players, Google Voice, and Virtual Private Network (VPN) services are being used to enhance naturalization service delivery.
  • Expanded New American Workforce (an effort to provide naturalization assistance within corporations) which has partnered with over 100 businesses across the nation, ranging from hotels in Miami to American Apparel in Los Angeles.
  • Deployed Citizenshipworks, an online tool, across the Campaign in multiple settings and languages. A newly redesigned platform guides applicants through through their citizenship application from start to finish and connects applicants to legal help at partnering non-profits.
  • Were instrumental in inspiring the US Citizenship and Immigration Service to support the Citizenship Corners initiative.
  • Created innovative partnerships with public libraries, school districts, universities, social service agencies, and employers, all of which yield not only greater numbers of applicants but also greater awareness of the naturalization process.
  • Deployed a large-scale volunteer recruitment program through an e-learning course.

    Reached diverse communities. Local partners consistently outreach and provide culturally competent and language-appropriate services.
Learn more from our
Impact Report.

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Who We're Helping

People come to America from all over the world with dreams of achieving a better life for themselves and their families and calling this great nation home. Eight million people who live, work, and pay taxes in this country are eligible for citizenship, yet only about eight percent of them naturalize each year. Find out more about these individuals and the barriers they face.Read More