Overcoming Barriers to Applying for DACA: Loan Programs for Potential Applicants

A Guest Post by Michael Kavate of Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees

DACA can transform lives. A successful application—while by no means a cure-all—can be the first step toward a better job, higher earnings, and freedom from the fear of deportation. These benefits and others uplift not only the lives of the applicants, but those of their families and communities—a driver’s license offers access to more jobs, bank accounts help safely store earnings, and capital allows immigrants to make business investments for themselves or others. Yet for too many would-be beneficiaries, the $465 fee to submit an application is too high a barrier.

To help eligible youth and young adults surmount this obstacle, credit unions across the country have stepped up. Alone and in partnership with philanthropy, dozens of credit unions have created loan programs that promise to not only unlock the benefits of DACA for applicants, but to familiarize immigrants with the mainstream financial services that are the foundation of a secure financial future. These loans can help establish or bolster immigrants’ credit scores, opening the door for future car, student, and business loans, as well as to the financial products that many Americans take for granted: credit cards, mortgages, and retirement accounts.

Participants in a recent Learning Network call asked for more information about these efforts, wanting to make sure they were aware of and leveraging relevant resources. Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR) has compiled the following list and broad details about these programs based on our experience in this sphere. For more details about common structures, as well as case studies of five leading programs, review GCIR’s report, Dreamer Loan Programs: The Power of Partnerships with Community Development Credit Unions.

The first such loan programs were launched primarily by credit unions serving large numbers of immigrants, but these programs are spreading far and wide, including to new immigrant destinations like Iowa and Vermont. Many of these credit unions focus on DACA, but others offer loans for citizenship applications and other immigration-related needs. Most programs are structured as personal loans, with interest rates of 8 to 15 percent.

The following list represents a sampling of the many loan programs located around the country. It is not intended to be comprehensive, and represents only a ‘snapshot in time’ of the current programs available.

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