Seattle credit union helps immigrants get citizenship

King County has as many as 100,000 immigrant residents eligible for full US citizenship but unable to claim it as they simply cannot afford the cost of the application fee. There is now a new program, devised by the Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union in conjunction with the city of Seattle. It offers immigrants with green card loans the chance to overcome the financial difficulties they face if they want to become naturalized.

The immigrant population of Seattle is booming five times quicker than that of the native-born population. Many immigrants, though, lack access to banks, let alone credit, and cannot find the $680 filing fee charged by the US government for a full citizenship application, according to the credit union’s CEO and president, Richard Romero.

Romero, himself a naturalized immigrant, says that that amount of money can seem high to immigrants. The fee can increase to more than $3000 when there are spouses and children also wanting to gain citizenship. Many immigrants may also have to pay for legal assistance with the application process, which is a long and complicated process.

The program manager for the non-profit organization, Washington New Americans, Sarah Sumadi, says that many of the immigrants they help end up failing to complete their citizenship application because of the cost. The new loans last for a year and carry an interest fee of 9.99 percent or an upfront fee. They will be available from all seven branches of Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union in Greater Seattle.