Getting a green card can be a long, arduous process for many immigrants. Some even have to wait for 25 years or spend tens of thousands of dollars to get legal permanent residency in the United States.
Because of this, legal permanent residents who are eligible for naturalization often think that applying for U.S. citizenship is harder than it really is.
“They fear that they won’t pass the test and interview. They fear that their English is not good enough,” Marina Gundorin, immigration supervisor at the Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte, said at a recent ethnic media convening here. “And they fear that they won’t be able to afford the application fee.”
In fact, green card holders can access free services to help them with their applications, including fee waivers and language waivers for eligible applicants. These services are available through free citizenship workshops and clinics hosted by local organizations that form part of the New Americans Campaign, a national coalition to make citizenship more accessible.
Monica Bourommavong, citizenship outreach coordinator for the Southeast Asian Coalition, said that 95 percent of individuals and families they help with their U.S. citizenship application are eligible for a fee waiver.
“Most of them are low income,” she said. “And a majority of them are not proficient in English, so we are here to help them with their application process.”
“If they become U.S. citizens, they can petition family members to live in the United States, have the right to vote, be able to run for public office, work for a U.S. federal agency and, for certain countries, may be able to have dual citizenship” said Maritza Solano, director of the Latin American Coalition.
According to community leaders and advocates for naturalization, another significant benefit of being a U.S. citizen is being able to travel and re-enter the country without a hassle.
“Traveling with a U.S. passport gives you more freedom,” said Solano. “It gives you protection from deportation and, if you are outside the country, it gives you U.S. consular protection.”
For more information about the New Americans Campaign go to NewAmericansCampaign.org