New Survey from One Percent for America: Citizenship Status Creates Major Hurdle For Immigrants In Achieving Financial Goals

December 8th, 2022

While immigrants and US-born citizens share 6 of 7 top financial goals, key services including health insurance, education loans, 401k plans, and auto loans remain difficult to access for non-citizens

A new, first-of-its-kind survey from BlueHub Capital's One Percent for America program compares the financial goals of native-born U.S. citizens with those of immigrants to the United States, revealing that the two groups share many of the same financial goals and needs, including retirement and home ownership. One key difference between the groups, however, is that immigrants prioritize completion of the long and often costly process of becoming a citizen as a top financial goal.

While the survey identified many commonalities in the financial goals of immigrants and U.S.-born citizens, it also found a higher need among immigrants for consumer and financial services, most notably health insurance, retirement funds and education loans. Other findings include:

  • 38% of immigrants reported saving money monthly compared to 24% of U.S.-born citizens
  • 14% of immigrants reported their debt increases every month compared to 24% of U.S.-born citizens
  • 20% of immigrants surveyed reported needing but not currently having health insurance
  • 40% of immigrants surveyed reported needing but not currently having a 401k plan
  • 25% of immigrants surveyed reported needing but not currently having a home loan

Behind common goals such as buying a home or car, obtaining secondary education, and building wealth are systems and institutions that assist in accessing these goals, including U.S. banking, credit, and labor markets. These American systems tend to have a higher bar for eligibility for immigrants that are not yet naturalized, linking the naturalization and consumer journeys of immigrants. The naturalization journey adds a layer of complication that can result in an undue burden on immigrants in accessing the same financial goals that are key to building a full life in the U.S.

One Percent for America is a national nonprofit organization committed to investing in citizenship. Using an innovative, affordable, scalable and self-sustaining approach, One Percent for America offers loans at a 1% interest rate to cover the cost of citizenship application fees, opening the door to greater financial opportunities. Since its launch in early 2022, OPA has lent over $200,000 to more than 300 borrowers in 23 states.

"Immigrants are an integral part of the social fabric of our country. It’s our mission to help more immigrants become US citizens and ensure they can participate fully in American democracy, economy and society,” said BlueHub Capital CEO Elyse Cherry. “By providing immigrants with the resources and information they need to achieve financial prosperity, we are leveling the playing field and making the American dream more accessible than ever before." 

To inform this research, One Percent for America conducted a national survey of over 1,500 immigrants and native-born U.S. citizens, representing over 110 different countries of origin and a variety of industries including retail, health care and construction. Respondents included naturalized citizens, visa holders, green card holders, DACA and TPS recipients and undocumented residents.

“We conducted this research by asking immigrants from a variety of backgrounds what their financial goals are and what resources would be most helpful for them, in order to better understand what similarities and differences exist between the financial needs and habits of immigrants and native-born U.S. citizens,” said Jaime Escott, Senior Vice President at One Percent for America, “A key difference between these two groups is the additional hurdle that citizenship status creates for immigrants seeking financial prosperity. We believe that removing the financial barriers to citizenship and its enormous promise unlocks value for families, for communities, and for our nation.”

This latest report is part of One Percent for America’s ongoing research into the economics of immigration and citizenship. In September 2021, OPA conducted a national blind survey of more than 1,200 immigrants in the United States that are either non-citizens or were naturalized within the last five years and found that application fees create a significant financial barrier to citizenship. In fact, according to this research, 87% of recently naturalized citizens borrowed funds in order to cover application fees.

“I came to the United States in search of a new beginning. When I first immigrated, I had to start from scratch, which was incredibly challenging because I did not have the same level of access to credit cards and loans,” said Alvaro Garcia, who immigrated to the United States from Venezuela. “One Percent for America helped me complete the process of becoming a citizen and set me up for financial success. Now, I finally feel empowered to make the most of all of the opportunities available in the United States.”


About One Percent for America & BlueHub Capital

One Percent for America is sponsored by BlueHub Capital, a national, mission-driven, nonprofit community development financing organization focused on building healthy communities where low-income people live and work. BlueHub Capital uses innovative financial tools and has deployed over $2.4 billion (and leveraged over $12 billion) in capital to support projects that make communities more vibrant places to live. BlueHub Capital has four distinct programs: BlueHub Loan Fund (community development financing), BlueHub SUN (foreclosure relief), BlueHub Energy (clean energy access) and One Percent for America (citizenship financing).