FILE: An Uber driver near the San Francisco International Airport.
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FILE: An Uber driver near the San Francisco International Airport.
Credit: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Immigrants can now get a free Lyft (or Uber) to immigration interviews

Elizabeth Kanku Kabuya is a refugee from the Democractic Republic of Congo.

She was supposed to have her citizenship interview in Seattle but it got rerouted to Portland. Now she’s the first to get help getting there from Uber and Lyft.

It’s thanks to a partnership between the City of Seattle, local non profits, and the rideshare giants.

Both companies pledged $10,000 each to help immigrants get a train or bus ticket, or to subsidize the cost of driving. And in some cases, immigrants can even bring an attorney with them.

Oksana Bilobran is an immigration attorney with the Refugee Women’s Alliance, a non profit in South Seattle. Her client Kabuya was the first to receive help from the new fund.

"Everybody is relieved that the interview is finally happening because the wait time is roughly about a year right now," Bilobran said.

Back in June, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that some citizenship interviews and naturalization ceremonies would take place in Portland or Yakima instead of the local Seattle office. Officials said it would help cut wait times.

"But it's also an added anxiety for people who have to find a ride. Our client [Kabuya] doesn't drive a car," said Bilobran. "And she would have a hard time navigating public transportation."

Bilobran ended up driving her client from Puyallup to Portland herself.

Through an interpreter Kabuya said in French, "I’m very happy. She [Bilobran] did everything she could to help and she really made a lot of sacrifices for me."

Uber and Lyft pledged an additional 1,400 free rides for immigrants to get to and from the train or bus stations and to the USCIS offices in Portland and Yakima.

City officials estimate the partnership will help 400 Seattle-area immigrants.