SEATTLE – Becoming a U.S. citizen isn’t free, costing those applying nearly $700 per person.
So some credit unions in the Evergreen State are helping eligible residents with loans to cover the cost.
Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union (SMCU) recently joined the Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs to offer the city’s 22,000 legal permanent residents the opportunity to become citizens.
Richard Romero, the credit union’s CEO, says one of the biggest barriers to working with immigrant communities is gaining their trust.
“One of the most valuable results that we want to get from the program is to establish that trust, and be maybe the first financial institution that these people are working with, either in the United States or maybe even in their lifetime,” he stresses.
SMCU is offering loans ranging from $700 to $4,000 for residents and their families who are eligible to apply for citizenship.
The Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs also has joined other organizations to provide free services to permanent residents who need help becoming U.S. citizens.
Romero says he has personal experience with immigrating to the United States, coming here when he was 4-years-old and becoming a citizen in his 20s.
He says there’s a lot of value in becoming a citizen. Certain doors are open that aren’t open to residents without citizenship status.
“To me, that value alone changes people’s appreciation for where they live, people’s appreciation for their community, how they contribute to the community, how they contribute to the economy,” he states. “I think it would make them feel more secure owning a business, running a business.”
Residents looking for citizenship loans can apply at smcu.com/citizen.
The Lower Valley Federal Credit Union, which has three branches in the Yakima Valley, also provides citizenship loans.
Featured Image: There are an estimated 22,000 legal permanent residents in Seattle who are eligible to become U.S. citizens. (Mayor McGinn/flickr)
Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He's also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.