Feature written in July, 2018
FHLB Des Moines Member: Ascentra Credit Union
Immigrants and refugees come to the United States for help—but when they get here, the fees quickly add up.
The fee for the Application to Register Residence or Adjust Status alone can run up to $1,070 per person, which is no small sum for newly arrived immigrants who live below the poverty level. And it’s not the only fee—services and applications that cost money include citizenship, green card renewal, visas, waivers and family petitions. In many cases, immigrants and refugees have to postpone paying these costs, prolonging their cases and often preventing them from bringing their families to safety in a timely fashion.
In response, Ascentra Credit Union developed the Newcomers Initiative, a unique and nationally recognized program that assists individuals and their families in paying for the growing cost of residency, naturalization and other immigration-related fees. The program allows individuals to finance these costs at a low interest rate while also helping them establish or improve their credit score and introduce them to mainstream financial products and services from by a trusted not-for-profit financial institution.
To identify people in need of financing for these services and applications, Ascentra partnered with the Diversity Service Center of Iowa (DSCI). Immigrants often come to DSCI seeking to improve their immigration status in the United States, which benefits the community and the family. Legalization and citizenship furthers the community’s economic development as a whole, strengthening families, which leads to stronger communities. This program benefits immigrants by providing them a sense of security, granting the ability to vote, helping to stabilize finances and uniting separated families. Legal status helps immigrants with stability and economic well-being. Once an individual obtains an employment authorization card, they are able to find more secure and better paying jobs, use mainstream financial services, purchase a home or vehicle, and obtain health insurance for their families.
In the first year alone, 21 loans were given to 20 clients. A total of 69 individuals lived in the homes of those who received loans, including 42 adults and 27 children. The program has since provided 66 loans totaling $94,765 and has expanded into Illinois, having an even greater impact for immigrants across the midwest—and their loved ones trying to get here.