Houston prepares to welcome the new Americans!
Becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen can be a daunting prospect, even for those lawful permanent residents (green card holders) who’ve lived in this country for many years.
First, there is the cost. Fee waivers for the $725 filing fee are available, but only for those whose household income is at or below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Yet $725 is an immense hurdle for working immigrants who struggle to pay rent, tuition, and feed growing families.
Then there is the process itself; applicants must face a challenging gauntlet of the interview, the civics exam, and the language requirement. Some applicants—those over 50 years of age and who have lived in the U.S. as green card holders for at least 20 years—may be exempt from the language requirement, but again, not everyone qualifies.
Over the past several months, attorneys and staff from Justice for All Immigrants (JFAI)—our JFON site in Houston—have taken part in three large-scale naturalization workshops to help make the process a little less overwhelming. The workshops are run in collaboration with the New Americans Campaign and several other local nonprofits.
“It’s a well-oiled machine,” says Legal Director Joy Green. “We begin with the pre-screening. We make sure that there are no red flags and that the applicant is eligible. In total, we screened 160 applicants and completed 97 applications for naturalization.”
Those who need help applying for a fee waiver or have another issue can schedule an appointment later with JFAI’s Houston office.
“It’s great to see them become citizens,” adds Joy. “Hopefully, they will then want to vote …and vote for immigrant-friendly politicians.”