NY Governor Launches Program to Promote Citizenship

In Partnership with the New York Daily News, Robin Hood Foundation, SUNY Albany, Stanford University, and George Mason University, “NaturalizeNY” Waives Naturalization Fee for 2,000 Eligible Low-Income Working Immigrants through lottery

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently launched “NaturalizeNY,” the first public-private partnership of its kind to encourage and assist eligible immigrants to become U.S. citizens.

The initiative, administered by the New York State Office for New Americans, provides comprehensive support through the naturalization process and features free eligibility screenings, application assistance, naturalization exam preparation and a lottery for 2,000 naturalization application fee vouchers for low-income citizenship-eligible immigrants.

“We are a nation of immigrants, and New York believes that diversity is our greatest asset,” Governor Cuomo said in light of activating this initiative.

According to the U.S. Census, there are 915,000 people in New York State who hold a green card and are eligible for citizenship – including approximately 654,720 in New York City. The federal application fee for any individual is currently $680, although it is expected to rise later this year.

“Citizenship isn’t a luxury item,” says Jorge Montalvo, Deputy Secretary of State for Economic Opportunities, who founded and now oversees for Governor Cuomo the New York State Office for New Americans. “Anyone that’s eligible and wants to become a citizen should be supported through the process.”

For Montalvo, the process of becoming a citizen is personal.

“My parents are from Ecuador and are naturalized citizens,” says Montalvo. “As a child, I went through flashcards with my parents early each morning before work and late at night afterwards to help them study for their citizenship test. This initiative is really exciting for me. We hope to help as many eligible immigrants as possible in their journey to becoming U.S. citizens.”

NaturalizeNY will boost awareness of the naturalization process through a major public awareness campaign and by providing citizenship assistance to low-income working immigrants. As a central component of the initiative, the State will host Citizenship and Naturalization Legal Clinics at its 27 Opportunity Centers across New York State. These centers are hosted by local community based organizations, including New Americans Campaign partners in New York City.

“There’s a natural synergy between this program and the New Americans Campaign,” says Montalvo.

At no cost to the prospective applicant, legal clinics at each center provide information on the citizenship process, eligibility screenings, naturalization application and fee waiver application assistance and English and civics classes.

Additional naturalization assistance services will be coordinated with experienced community partners throughout the state and online services. A locator for Opportunity Centers is available here.

Aspiring new Americans whose household income are between 150% to 300% of the federal poverty guidelines will receive an opportunity to have all of their naturalization fees waived through a lottery, open now through Sept. 23. For a family of three, that is an income of between $30,240 and $60,480. Those eligible for the current federal fee waiver are provided access to local not-for-profit service providers to help them apply for naturalization now.

The New York Daily News, which runs the annual program “CUNY Citizenship NOW!” and offers thousands of immigrants in New York City free immigration advice, will assist with lottery promotion.

Those who enter the lottery and don’t win in the first round will automatically be entered in the second round early 2017. A total of 2,000 people will be chosen through both lottery rounds.

To support the 2,000 lottery recipients, the State of New York, the Robin Hood Foundation and the New York Community Trust are investing more than $1.25 million to cover the fee assistance vouchers. The funding will be paid directly to the federal government by the campaign partners and will cover the full cost of the required naturalization process. Vouchers will be distributed over the next 12 months, and will be administered by personnel from SUNY Albany, Stanford University, and George Mason University.

In addition to expanding opportunities to New Yorkers, NaturalizeNY will also provide a boost to the state’s economy. The 2015 study conducted by the Urban Institute found that, on average, there is an increase of 8.9 percent in earnings for immigrants who become citizens. The increased earnings lead to higher tax payments and lower reliance on public benefits. For New York City, this would mean that if all eligible immigrants become citizens there would be an increase in tax revenues of $789 million, which, along with a decrease in benefits use, would yield a net benefit to New York of $823 million.

Learn more about NaturalizeNY online or call 1-800-566-7636.


Posted on August 17, 2016

Our Impact

  • The Campaign has completed over 3,700 naturalization workshops and clinics.
  • Over 250,000 citizenship applications completed since July 2011.

    Saved aspiring citizens and their families over $206million in legal and application fees.
  • Adopted scalable technology. MP3 players, Google Voice, and Virtual Private Network (VPN) services are being used to enhance naturalization service delivery.
  • Expanded New American Workforce (an effort to provide naturalization assistance within corporations) which has partnered with over 100 businesses across the nation, ranging from hotels in Miami to American Apparel in Los Angeles.
  • Deployed Citizenshipworks, an online tool, across the Campaign in multiple settings and languages. A newly redesigned platform guides applicants through through their citizenship application from start to finish and connects applicants to legal help at partnering non-profits.
  • Were instrumental in inspiring the US Citizenship and Immigration Service to support the Citizenship Corners initiative.
  • Created innovative partnerships with public libraries, school districts, universities, social service agencies, and employers, all of which yield not only greater numbers of applicants but also greater awareness of the naturalization process.
  • Deployed a large-scale volunteer recruitment program through an e-learning course.

    Reached diverse communities. Local partners consistently outreach and provide culturally competent and language-appropriate services.
Learn more from our
Impact Report.

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Who We're Helping

People come to America from all over the world with dreams of achieving a better life for themselves and their families and calling this great nation home. Eight million people who live, work, and pay taxes in this country are eligible for citizenship, yet only about eight percent of them naturalize each year. Find out more about these individuals and the barriers they face.Read More