Nine Million Immigrants are Eligible for US Citizenship Each Year, But 91% Never Apply, Citing Affordability as a Main Deterrent
More than nine million immigrants who are eligible to apply for US citizenship each year – 91% of whom never apply– will for the first time have access to a flexible 1% interest rate loan to cover the cost of their application.
The loan is offered by One Percent for America (OPA), a new digital platform affiliated with the nonprofit community development financial institution BlueHub Capital.
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.
While citizenship fees, which can cost up to $1,200, are in place to support United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) operations, some immigrants cannot afford them. Eighty-seven percent of survey respondents reported borrowing money in order to pay the fees, and two-thirds reported that they tapped high interest financing like credit cards, payday lenders and other sources of borrowed money to cover the costs.
OPA's 1% loan has no credit requirements, no late or hidden fees, and a flexible repayment schedule, and is being offered in conjunction with free financial education and dedicated community support. Once borrowers apply and are approved for the loan through OPA's website, OPA will issue borrowers a check for their loan funds made payable to USCIS on their behalf. Borrowers must pay back the loan within one year and can do so while they are applying for citizenship in order to ensure the longevity of the program.
"While the 'one percent' has traditionally symbolized wealth inequality and the inaccessibility of the American Dream, the One Percent for America program introduces a new 'one percent' that represents economic empowerment and provides new citizens with the resources they need to thrive. Our entire country benefits when immigrants are given a fair shot to become citizens and contribute to the national economy and character," said BlueHub Capital CEO Elyse Cherry. "Leveraging the lending experience of BlueHub Capital, One Percent for America is a technology-enabled platform that is self-sustaining and scalable, setting it apart from any other lending program for eligible citizens out there. We are calling on people from coast to coast to become part of the 'one percent' and help move our nation towards unity."
OPA’s model brings borrowers and investors together on one platform. Money donated or lent by investors allows immigrants to borrow the funds to pay their fees, then funds are recycled to help additional immigrant borrowers. The loan’s low 1% interest rate is in contrast with the 18-22% interest rates that commonly come with other options like payday lenders and credit cards.
“Throughout American history, immigrants have been the backbone of our economy and our society,” said Sage Shah, Open Door Immigration Services Executive Director. “There is no reason application fees should stand in the way of immigrants looking to gain citizenship and establish a life in the United States. The One Percent for America program would make citizenship more accessible.”
Building on BlueHub's over 35 years of experience in community-centric lending, the OPA program will combine its power with that of investors and borrowers to create a unique lending system that allows immigrants across the country to apply for citizenship without facing significant financial barriers.
To apply for a straightforward, 1% interest loan through One Percent for America, click here.
About BlueHub Capital
BlueHub Capital is a national, mission-driven, nonprofit community development finance organization focused on building healthy communities where low-income people live and work. BlueHub 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 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).