The National Immigration Forum estimates there are 8.8 million immigrants, or legal permanent residents, who are eligible to apply for U. S. citizenship. More than 250,000 of those eligible residents live in Houston.
These green card holders are your friends, family neighbors and colleagues who work hard and add to the dynamic fabric of our community. Yet, without U.S. citizenship, legal residents often face challenges and uncertainty.
Naturalization, or the process to become a citizen, can take six to nine months, and it costs $725 just to apply. But the City of Houston is introducing a new program to help employees take an important step closer to the American Dream.
The city is partnering with the National Immigration Forum and a network of nonprofit agencies to give one-on-one guidance for eligible employees. The New American Workforce Initiative will kick off with a free lunch-and-learn information session for employees on April 13, from noon – 1 p.m. in the 611 Walker Garden Level Auditorium.
“Houston is the most diverse city in the nation, and the City of Houston employees are a reflection of that diversity,” said Human Resources Director Jane Cheeks. “We have employees from all over the world. This initiative will strengthen our workforce by removing barriers to citizenship and providing support and resources for employees who are eligible to apply.”
New American Workforce Initiative provides:
- Introductory information session
- Citizenship application assistance
- One-on-one free consultation with an immigration attorney
- Interview preparation assistance
- Citizenship test study materials
In addition, the Houston Metropolitan Federal Credit Union will offer a pathway loan option to help employees to cover the $725 citizenship application fee. Employees can apply online or in person at branches located in the 611 Walker lobby or at 608 E. Tidwell Rd. Payment schedules can be arranged with the credit union and employees repay the loan though automatic payroll deductions.
Who is eligible to apply for citizenship?
- Lawful permanent resident for 5 years
- Lawful permanent resident for 3 years if you are married to a U.S. citizen
- Speak, read and write some English
- Pass a short U.S. history and government test
- Maintain continuous U.S. residency
This timely initiative arose from a collaboration between the city’s Office of New Americans and Immigrant Communities, the National Immigration Forum’s New American Workforce and the Human Resources Department. This is the first time a naturalization guidance program has been offered directly to city employees, but the Office of New Americans and Immigrant Communities offers similar citizenship forums to the community.
“We are facing uncertain times regarding existing immigration policies and procedures, so the National Immigration Forum is encouraging anyone who is eligible for citizenship to move forward with the application process,” said Brenda Kirk, Texas regional organizer and New American Workforce Houston site coordinator.
The project is funded through national and local regional foundations. The National Immigration Forum identifies regional service providers and coordinates citizenship training.