Naturalization Helps? Immigrants Face Citizenship Hurdles

A relatively small number of immigrants apply for citizenship each year. According to studies, citizens earn about 10% more income than immigrants. Even though there are economic benefits associated with citizenship, many immigrants are considered to be low-income. Therefore, it is difficult for these individuals to afford the fees and expenses that are incurred in the citizenship application process. In some communities, assistance is available for these immigrants to assist them with the citizenship application process.

Studies Show That Naturalized Citizens Earn More Than Legal Immigrants

According to new studies, immigrants who become naturalized citizens benefit from increased economic benefits offered by citizenship. The study also showed that such economic benefits were not just experienced by the naturalized citizen but rather that communities and local governments also reaped economic benefits. The studies also showed that immigrants face distinct challenges on the road to citizenship.

Increased Income Opportunities

One study looked at immigrants from just three cities in the United States. These cities were Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. The researchers discovered that naturalized citizens earned on around 10% more than their non-naturalized counterparts in each of the cities studied. This amount would result in over $8 billion economic boost due to increased income to local and state economies. In addition, the naturalized residents paid over $1 billion in taxes to their respective cities. Immigrants who are disabled and who have not worked in the United States for at least five years would be eligible for Supplemental Security Income or SSI. This income would also benefit local communities. Even in cases such as these where taxes would not be collected on the disability income, the immigrants would still help local communities by spending income in that community. This would benefit local businesses and other individuals in the local community.

Are All Immigrants Citizens?

It would seem wise for immigrants to decide to become citizens, especially since there is a distinct economic advantage in doing so. However, only 700,000 of the over 1 million immigrants living in the United States each year choose to become citizens of the country. Why is this the case? Analysts suggest that this trend is due in great part to the economic inequity experienced by immigrants and the immigrant community.

What Are The Costs of Citizenship?

Immigrants who fall into the low-income range compromise more than half of all of the legal immigrants who are eligible to become naturalized citizens. In addition to this, the cost of applying for citizenship has increased significantly over the last few years. In 2000, the cost of applying for citizenship was $225; that amount rose to $680 in 2008. According to experts in the field, another increase in application fees is expected to be levied soon which will create an additional burden for individuals already struggling economically. Furthermore, the application fee does not take into account the other “hidden” costs of citizenship. These costs can include but are not limited to test preparation classes, tutoring, English classes, the cost of tests, administrative costs associated with the paperwork necessary to fill out the application, and legal fees that could be incurred along the way. The result is that citizenship is too costly for a number of legal immigrants.

Some Help Does Exist

In the large urban areas, there is assistance available. Sometimes, this assistance can help immigrants overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of obtaining citizenship. In order to keep down costs, communities can use volunteers from different organizations as well as volunteer partnerships with schools and libraries to conduct programs and workshops to help immigrants with citizenship. Some cities also assist with legal aid and application processing assistance. One community in Maryland is offering immigrants loans to enable them to pay the fees associated with applying for citizenship. According to statistics, 100% of the funds borrowed have been paid back.

Benefits To Local Communities Offering Immigration Assistance

Communities that offered resources to immigrants to help those individuals with the citizenship application process benefited in the long run. Immigrants who were helped felt stronger connections to their communities. In addition, communities that offered the help were able to send a message to the immigrants that their contributions, talents and skills were valuable and needed by the local community. In other words, both the immigrant and the community benefited from the experience.

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