Literacy Council of Alaska seeks better process for Fairbanks students to achieve citizenship

Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 4:13 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Literacy Council of Alaska is seeking a better process for Fairbanks students to achieve their U.S. citizenship.

According to Holly Deland, an English Language Teacher with the Literacy Council of Alaska, the process of becoming a citizen for Fairbanks residents can be very costly and time consuming. Deland explained, “I have been helping arrange citizenship classes for the last 10 years with the Literacy Council, so I’ve seen a lot of people apply for citizenship and go through that process - and one of the big hurdles that I’ve seen that I think could have a pretty easy solution, I would hope, would be transportation actually because there is no USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) office that is available for giving interviews to become a citizen here in Fairbanks. So they have to travel down to Anchorage at least three times in the process of becoming a citizen. That adds a lot of money to the process, a lot of time away from jobs, finding child care, many different issues that come up and it’s just more hurdles for them.”

According to Deland, many students are not comfortable with driving to Anchorage during the winter due to poor road conditions, which further limits when they are able to receive their citizenship.

Deland explained that there are three meetings minimum that one must attend to receive citizenship. “In the process to become a citizen, they apply and they wait around for a notice for when they can go and get their fingerprints done. So they have to fly down to Anchorage for that and it’s a 15 minute appointment that they have at the office. Then they usually have to get a taxi, come back to the airport and fly back if they don’t stay in Anchorage overnight. So that’s the first trip. Second trip would be going down for an interview and an English test, and then the third trip would be going in for their swearing in ceremony.”

Another aspect to consider is that because the oath ceremony is held in Anchorage, the individual being naturalized may not be able to have family or witnesses present for a very significant event in their life.

The solution that the Literacy Council seeks would be to both condense some of these appointments together, and have a USCIS official come to Fairbanks quarterly.

“In the past, it’s my understanding that an officer used to come up here and be able to facilitate some of those services here quarterly. So that would be at least what I would ask for or recommend. If there’s any point where any of those meetings could be combined or done here in Fairbanks, ideally quarterly, that would be great,” Deland commented.

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