Press Release

SF celebrates nearly 10,000 new citizens, urges immigrants to naturalize now

New U.S. citizen holds flag and smiles
As San Francisco leaders celebrate Citizenship Month this September, they have an urgent message for eligible green card holders: Naturalize now, before the fees go up.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 11, 2020

CONTACT: Jamie Richardson
Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA)
Email: jamie.richardson@sfgov.org
Phone: 415-531-8034


SF CELEBRATES NEARLY 10,000 NEW CITIZENS, URGES IMMIGRANTS TO NATURALIZE NOW


SAN FRANCISCO – As San Francisco leaders celebrate Citizenship Month this September, they have an urgent message for eligible green card holders: Naturalize now, before the fees go up.

It currently costs $725 to apply for U.S. citizenship. Those who can’t afford the fee can apply for a fee waiver. But as of October 2, 2020, the administration plans to largely eliminate fee waivers, and to raise fees for various immigration benefits, including hiking the naturalization fee to as much as $1,170.

San Francisco’s Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs and the San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative are hosting two virtual events to celebrate Citizenship Month and help applicants cover the cost. On Tuesday, September 15, 2020, the Initiative will host a virtual celebration of the nearly 10,000 people it has helped apply for U.S. citizenship, and the many volunteers and partners who have made this possible. A free online workshop will be held on Thursday, September 17, 2020, to help eligible green card holders apply for citizenship and access fee assistance. 

 

“Since the inception of SF Pathways to Citizenship Initiative in 2013, we have been celebrating National Citizenship Day every year,” said Anni Chung, president and CEO of Self-Help for the Elderly, the Initiative’s lead organization. “This year is especially important for our community to pause and reflect on the significance of this special project which has helped almost 10,000 legal permanent residents become U.S. citizens.”

Hikmat Babak is one of the nearly 10,000 newly naturalized citizens. A native of Afghanistan, Babak said becoming a U.S. citizen is an honor. “As immigrants, when we become citizens, we can participate in democracy and elections, and it is also easier for us to travel around the world,” he said. “We can also gain more employment opportunities: doors will be open for you and your family.”

 

Funded by the City and local foundation partners, the San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative has held 50 free workshops across the city, provided legal screenings to nearly 15,000 immigrants, and saved applicants a total of nearly $4.5 million in application fees.

In 2017, the Initiative launched its Lawyers in the Library partnership with the San Francisco Public Library to help applicants apply for citizenship through computer-based workshops. In 2018, it partnered with the San Francisco International Airport to allow employees and their families to apply for citizenship at the airport.

This year, organizers say becoming a U.S. citizen has a new urgency. More than 5 million newly naturalized citizens will be voting in November. And with fee increases set to take effect next month, it is crucial for applicants who need financial assistance to get the help they need now.

“One in every 10 eligible voters in the U.S. today is a naturalized immigrant,” said Adrienne Pon, executive director of the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA). “Immigrants contribute greatly to local communities. San Francisco is committed to making citizenship more accessible, inclusive and affordable for our residents.” 

 

Although the fees are set to increase next month, applicants in San Francisco will continue to be able to access fee assistance while funds last. San Francisco is continuing its partnership with local non-profit organization Mission Asset Fund to help applicants cover the cost. The City of San Francisco provides a 50% match through Mission Asset Fund, for applicants who live, work, or attend school in San Francisco. Applicants can use the 50% match to pay the filing fee for naturalization or other immigration benefits including Temporary Protected Status (TPS), U visas for crime victims, family petitions, or renewal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).


The San Francisco Pathways Citizenship Day Celebration takes place Tuesday, September 15, 2020 at 11:00 a.m. More information is available at bit.ly/sfpci2020.

The free online workshop for eligible green card holders will be held via Zoom on Thursday, September 17, 2020, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Registration is required. Applicants can call 415-662-8901 to leave a message to register for a virtual appointment. The workshop is being presented in partnership with the Bridge at Main of the San Francisco Public Library, the San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative, and Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen and Loewy, LLP. 


Applicants who are not available to attend the virtual workshop can make an individual appointment with a partner organization at sfcitizenship.org, or leave a message on one of their multilingual hotlines:

  • English: 415-662-8901
  • Spanish: 415-662-8902
  • Chinese: 415-295-5894
  • Filipino: 415-692-6798
  • Russian: 415-754-3818

 

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About the San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative
The San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative was established in 2013 by the late Mayor Edwin M. Lee as a public-private partnership between local foundations and the City and County of San Francisco’s Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA) and was created to promote citizenship and civic participation among San Francisco’s naturalization-eligible immigrants.
Connect with The San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative: sfcitizenship.org

About the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA)
The Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA) is a policy, compliance, direct services and grantmaking office. OCEIA’s mission is to promote inclusive policies and foster immigrant assistance programs that lead to full civic, economic and linguistic integration. OCEIA seeks a safe, engaged and inclusive San Francisco where everyone can contribute and thrive.

Connect with OCEIA: sf.gov/oceia