By Harry Keaney
There’s a bargain gift of a lifetime that green card holders eligible for U.S. citizenship can give themselves this Christmas.
By applying now for citizenship, green card holders can save more than half what it will cost to apply in the New Year. That’s because the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service processing fee jumps from $90 to $225 on Jan. 15.
However, the Emerald Isle Immigration Center say applicants should regard the date of the increase as Jan. 9 because naturalization application packages must be with the INS by Jan. 15 to avail of the older rates. The EIIC, and other immigrant agencies, will be open Christmas week and first week in January to facilitate applicants.
For a married couple, the citizenship fee and $25 fingerprint fee currently add up to $240. When the new raters take effect, the total would be $500.
But despite the saving to be made, many immigration agencies in the tri-state area are not seeing the rush for citizenship that followed after certain benefits for non-citizens were scaled back in 1996. Part of the reason for this is that many people feel they need the money for Christmas shopping.
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On Monday, the Emerald Isle Immigration Center issued a statement urging green card holders to make becoming U.S. citizenship their New Year’s resolution.
"Some points are worth noting about U.S. citizenship," the EIIC statement points out. Among them, the U.S. and Ireland permit dual citizenship, and those who become U.S. citizens will not lose their Irish citizenship.
U.S. citizens may remain outside the U.S. indefinitely. Also, U.S. citizens can not be deported or excluded from the U.S.
Some Federal, state and city jobs, such as in police and fire departments, require applicants to be U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens can sponsor spouses, children and siblings for green cards, and are eligible for social security benefits and certain types of educational scholarships and financial aid.
Citizenship applications, photographs and counseling on citizenship are provided by the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, (718) 478-5502; Project Irish Outreach, (212) 371-1000, ext. 2485; Aisling Irish Community Center, (914) 237-5098, and Irish Apostolate of Brooklyn and Queens, (718) 899-9806.