IRC Silver Spring Helps Legal Permanent Residents Through Pathways To Citizenship
For “Legal Permanent Residents”, achieving the American dream of U.S. citizenship represents complete integration in their new country. The IRC Silver Spring is proud to be working with local businesses to promote the Pathways to Citizenship program, an innovative education and assistance initiative that assists vulnerable populations on their path to naturalization.
Eight million people qualify for citizenship in the U.S. based on their Legal Permanent Resident status, but only 8% of them become citizens each year. High application fees, a complex citizenship process, and limited access to legal resources are just a few of the obstacles they have to overcome. By applying for citizenship with the support of local employers and the IRC Immigration Team, IRC clients recieve support they need to make their goal a reality.
Pathways to Citizenship is a national IRC program established with assistance from IRC board member Andy Grove. It was implemented at IRC Silver Spring in 2012 following success at IRC Los Angeles and IRC Miami. IRC Silver Spring has recently expanded the program to include the DC metropolitan region. This expansion will focus on developing partnership with businesses with large and diverse immigrant populations on staff, such as hotels, factories and retail stores.
When a business agrees to host a Pathways to Citizenship program, the IRC Immigration Team works with them every step of the way. IRC Immigration Team members work with employees in person at their workplace, offering comprehensive pre-screening services, workshops, application and legal representation assistance. Employers show their support by providing a place for the IRC staff to offer these services to their employees. They encourage their employees to participate in the workshops and host events and celebrations when citizenship is attained. Some employers also offer support by giving their employees paid time off to pursue citizenship services and offer a naturalization fee match and payroll deduction savings plan as part of their employee benefits.
The Pathways to Citizenship program is exciting for everyone involved, and creates a win-win situation for workers and businesses. When employees have citizenship, it improves workforce stability, bottom line revenue and the internal and external reputation of the business. Employee loyalty and retention goes up dramatically, saving companies human resource dollars while promoting an appreciation for immigrant workers. They achieve positive publicity and ultimately, help keep companies competitive in the global market.
The IRC Pathways to Citizenship Program partners include East Coast Fresh Cut, Hyatt Hotels and Marriott Hotels. “These companies are pioneers in the sense that they recognize the tremendous benefit of supporting a diverse workforce by investing in the very community that comprises its consumer base,” commented IRC Employment Manager Matt Fortier. “They understand the value of developing a workforce who can connect with an increasingly diverse consumer base, and their innovative corporate-community partnership can include helping employees becomes U.S. Citizens.”
Abeje Chumo, one of the two Board of Immigration Accredited Representatives at IRC Silver Spring explained what this means for IRC clients. “The Pathways to Citizenship Program will go long way in integrating refugees and welcoming new Americans. To this end, we will be able to provide high quality, low cost, user directed naturalization application services to eligible Legal Permanent Residents residing in the area.”
IRC staff and employers are hopeful about the program’s expansion and already know it can work. Even in its early stages 25 Legal Permanent Residents have become naturalized U.S. citizens.