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Private Donation Would Help Fund Citizenship Applications

The Arlington County Board will debate accepting an anonymous donation from a resident to help immigrants pay filing fees on citizenship applications.

A private citizen made the $7,000 donation to the county’s Department of Human Services for a scholarship fund that will pay a portion of the costs to file an N-400 form, the Application for Naturalization.

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s website, the filing fee is $640, with an extra $85 fee for biometric testing added in some cases for a total of $725.

USCIS waives the fee for applicants whose income is below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines and reduces the fee for applicants whose income is between 151 percent and 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

But despite the waivers, county staff said that sometimes people can struggle to pay the reduced fees.

“However, some applicants who qualify for the reduced fee and other applicants who are required to pay the full fee still have difficulty paying for their application,” staff wrote in a report. “As a result, they often delay applying for naturalization even when they are eligible and prepared for their interview.”

Under the proposal, applicants at 151-200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines could receive a $200 scholarship, while those at 201-250 percent could get $360. Applicants’ income will be determined based on adjusted gross income, while they must prove county residency and show they reach USCIS’ English language proficiency guidelines.

Anyone who applies must make an appointment and meet in person for an interview at the Community Outreach Program at the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street, Suite 523).

They would be notified within two weeks if they are successful, and would receive a check from DHS made out to USCIS. The applicant would then be responsible for mailing that check and the rest of the filing fee with their application.

Staff recommended the County Board approve the scholarship at its meeting Saturday (January 27).

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