In 2008, Opportunity Fund launched Saving for Citizenship, a 5-year initiative to help low-income Silicon Valley residents develop financial skills while saving to pay the fees to become U.S. citizens. Saving for Citizenship was the first program in the country to define citizenship as an asset, providing savings incentives and money management training to immigrants whose only barrier to obtaining citizenship was the steep $680 application fee. Generously funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Saving for Citizenship helped more than 900 immigrants obtain U.S. citizenship.
As part of our commitment to evaluating the impact of our programs, Opportunity Fund contracted ICF International to conduct a comprehensive, integrated, longitudinal evaluation to measure the outcomes of Saving for Citizenshipon participating families. What we learned is highlighted in a report we’re releasing today.
Opportunity Fund conducted this extensive evaluation of Saving for Citizenship because we believe in the importance of rigorous, independent evaluation of our programs and their impacts. We are also committed to sharing what we learn with our partners, funders, the microfinance field, and the broader community. With this commitment in mind, this report is the first in an occasional series of Opportunity Fund’s research and evaluation findings. We want to share what we’re learning about our clients with you, our partners and donors.
Citizenship is a potentially transformative asset for low-income families. Since Opportunity Fund and the Knight Foundation first launched Saving for Citizenship in 2008, a number of programs have emerged to help qualified immigrants access funds to pay to apply for citizenship. Across the nation, banks, credit unions, and community organizations have begun to offer microloan programs to low-income immigrants for citizenship application fees. We hope that the findings from our Saving for Citizenship research will strengthen the field and help many more low-income immigrants become financially and civically engaged U.S. citizens.