Partnerships with Human Services Agencies Boost Interest in Naturalization

A new report authored by Marion Coddou of Stanford University and part of the New Americans Campaign Best Practices Series Toolkit puts a spotlight on a very promising new model of cooperation that has boosted turnout for San Francisco Bay Area naturalization workshops in Santa Clara, San Francisco and San Mateo counties.

In partnership with local human services agencies, the New Americans Campaign has organized large scale workshops where Campaign partners served thousands of lawful permanent residents (LPRs) seeking free naturalization services. Since partnering with human services agencies, New Americans Campaign partners report increased workshop turnout, attendee preparedness and access to eligible low-income LPRs.

It is estimated that about one third of the 9 million immigrants eligible to naturalize may qualify for a fee waiver. Local New Americans Campaign partners conducting workshops in the Bay Area found that few of the low-income naturalization applicants who came to their workshops knew about the availability of a fee waiver. In each of these three counties, the human services agency worked with New Americans Campaign partners to get the word out to their low-income clients.

Immigrants who are receiving a means-tested benefit, such as Food Stamps, qualify for a waiver of the naturalization application fee, currently $680. The county human services agencies that administer benefits are perfectly poised for outreach about naturalization and the fee waiver.

Today, the human service agencies in the three Bay Area counties conduct robo-calls and send mailers to their clients with information about naturalization workshops, eligibility for naturalization and the fee waiver. They also provide LPRs with proof that they receive a public benefit — something the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requires as a way of demonstrating eligibility for a fee waiver. The agencies also send their staff to the naturalization workshops to print out benefit receipt letters for attendees who may have lost theirs.

The partnerships have significantly increased the number of LPRs attending the workshops organized by local Campaign partners. For example, in Santa Clara County, organizations conducting workshops for 75 to 100 immigrants were able to conduct three “mega-workshops” since the start of the partnership, the largest attracting 1,400 applicants. In San Francisco, the first workshop organized with this model anticipated 1,000 attendees and 2,400 people showed up. Not only are numbers boosted, but applicants come to the workshops better prepared.

The success of this partnership has also come with important lessons for refining and improving outreach and anticipating the response. Handling phone calls after a large mailing goes out can be a challenge, and New Americans Campaign partners are coming up with innovative ways to efficiently handle the large volume of calls in multiple languages.

Throughout the country, counties can partner with New Americans Campaign collaborations to provide access to U.S. citizenship to a difficult to reach population that otherwise would be less likely to naturalize.

Read the full report here.

Posted on March 30, 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