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There is hope — and financial resources— for legal immigrants living in the United States who yearn for U.S. citizenship.
The Biden administration signaled Monday that it wants to help legal permanent residents in their naturalization process.
“It is critical that we provide immigrants pursuing citizenship and the organizations who help support their efforts with the tools to be successful,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a news release.
One of the strongest steps that the current administration has taken was to discontinue the new civic education test that immigrants must pass to obtain citizenship, implemented by the Trump administration.
Citizenship preparation grants
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced on Monday an economic opportunity for community organizations that help immigrants with green cards prepare to become U.S. citizens through naturalization.
The immigration agency said that it will subsidize, with up to $10 million in grants, citizenship preparation programs in communities across the United States.
“The Citizenship and Integration Grant Program helps those preparing to become U.S. citizens to successfully integrate into American society,” Mayorkas noted in the release.
“This administration recognizes that naturalization is an important milestone in the civic integration of immigrants, and we will continue to provide support for individuals hoping to establish new citizenship in our country,” the Cuban-American official added.
One of the key requirements to become an American citizen is to pass the naturalization test — in which immigrants must prove they can read, write and speak basic English, and have essential knowledge of U.S. history and government.
The pro-immigrant organizations that will benefit from the 2021 funding opportunity help low-income immigrants become citizens by teaching them English, history and civics.
Funds to help permanent residents and refugees
The grant program has two categories:
▪ Citizenship Instruction and Naturalization Application Services
Up to $8.2 million will be offered to up to 33 nonprofit organizations that prepare legal permanent residents offering both citizenship classes and naturalization application services, such as assistance filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
The application deadline is July 16, 2021, and the maximum grant award is $250,000. To qualify, applicants must comply with USCIS’ Adult Citizenship Education Curriculum.
▪ Refugee and Asylee Integration Services Program
Up to $1.8 million will be offered to up to six organizations that help permanent residents who entered the country under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program or were granted asylum. They must teach skills and knowledge needed to acquire citizenship, and promote a sense of belonging in the United States.
The application deadline is July 16, 2021, and the maximum grant award is $300,000.
Who is eligible for naturalization?
An immigrant must:
▪ Be at least 18 years old at the time of filing.
▪ Live in the United States as a permanent legal resident for five continuous years, or three if he or she got a green card through a U.S. citizen spouse.
▪ Show physical presence in the United States for at least 30 months during the last five years, or 18 months if married to an American citizen.
▪ Show good moral character. This means a clean criminal record for the previous five years, and not submitting false information as part of any immigration form or procedure. (A person with an aggravated felony is ineligible for naturalization.)
▪ Be able to read, write and speak basic English, and show knowledge of U.S. history and government.
▪ Be willing to support and defend the United States and the U.S. Constitution.
USCIS said it was organizing a “stakeholder engagement” event on June 9, from 2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. to answer questions. For more information applicants can call 800-518-4726 or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Daniel Shoer Roth is a journalist covering immigration law who does not offer legal advice or individual assistance to applicants. Follow him on Twitter @DanielShoerRoth. The contents of this story do not constitute legal advice.
Read this story in Spanish at el Nuevo Herald.