July 18, 2016

Governor Cuomo Launches "Naturalize NY" – First Public-Private Partnership of Its Kind to Promote U.S. 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


$1.25 Million Investment Will Offset Financial Costs and Help Reduce the Barriers For Immigrants to Become U.S. Citizens


Governor Announces Website For Individuals to Determine Citizenship Eligibility and Apply For Fee Waiver - NaturalizeNY.Org


Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently launched “NaturalizeNY,” the first public-private partnership of its kind to encourage and assist eligible immigrants in New York State with becoming U.S. citizens. The initiative provides comprehensive support through the naturalization process – featuring free eligibility screenings, application assistance, naturalization exam preparation, and a lottery for 2,000 naturalization application fee vouchers for low-income citizenship-eligible immigrants. NaturalizeNY is administered by the State Office for New Americans in partnership with the New York Daily News, the Robin Hood Foundation, New York Community Trust, SUNY Albany, Stanford University, George Mason University and additional not-for-profit organizations throughout the state.

“We are a nation of immigrants, and New York believes that diversity is our greatest asset,” Governor Cuomo said. “Amid the fervor of national debate, today we are sending a clear message – that we welcome you with open arms to join our community and grow with our economy. Ensuring greater access to the information, tools and resources needed to apply for citizenship is vital to delivering on this promise, and we are proud to point the nation the way forward in getting it done.”

NaturalizeNY boosts awareness of the naturalization process by providing comprehensive citizenship assistance, and includes a lottery for 2,000 naturalization application fee vouchers for eligible low-income working immigrants. The New York Daily News, which runs the annual program "Daily News/CUNY Citizenship NOW!,” and offers thousands of immigrants in New York City free immigration advice, will assist with the selection of the first round of recipients in September.
In addition to expanding opportunity for 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.

Citizenship Assistance
As a central component of NaturalizeNY, the State will host Citizenship and Naturalization Legal Clinics at its 27 Opportunity Centers across New York. At no cost to the prospective applicant, each Legal Clinic will provide:
  • Information on the U.S. citizenship process
  • Eligibility screenings
  • Naturalization application assistance
  • Naturalization application fee waiver assistance 
  • 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.

Lottery for Application Fee Voucher

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 and is expected to rise later this year.
A 2015 study conducted by the Urban Institute found that a main reason these individuals have not yet applied is related to the cost of the individual application. While there is an application to waive the federal application fee for low-income immigrants, many working applicants are income ineligible for the federal naturalization fee waiver. For example, an individual making $30,000 a year – an income that is still too high to qualify for federal fee waivers – still spends about a week’s pay on the naturalization application fee.

To support 2,000 prospective applicants, New York State, 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.

To apply: Applicants whose household income falls between $30,240 and $60,480 are encouraged to apply. Registration opens today and closes September 23. Prospective applicants can determine their eligibility for citizenship and their eligibility for the lottery by visiting www.NaturalizeNY.org; additional information is available by calling the New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636.

Building on New York’s Leading Efforts

Naturalize NY is part of Governor Cuomo’s efforts to help immigrants and minority populations fully participate in New York’s civic and economic life.

In 2011, his first year in office, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 26, requiring State agencies that provide direct public services to offer free interpretation and translation services to members of the public for vital forms and instructions. Under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, New York State also:
  •  Established Office for New Americans – the first state-level immigrant office created by statute in the nation – to assist newcomers in the State who are eager to contribute to our economy and become part of the family of New York.
  •  Launched a comprehensive initiative to protect immigrants from immigration-related fraud, which included signing legislation making it a felony to commit immigrant assistance services fraud.
Most recently, Governor Cuomo launched the Task Force to End Worker Exploitation and the Nail Salon Industry Enforcement Task Force to ensure that workers are being treated fairly and for business owners to better understand their rights and responsibilities.

Becoming a U.S. Citizen

The federal government only grants U.S. citizenship to immigrants with lawful status after the individual fulfills the requirements established by Congress. The process of becoming a citizen, referred to as naturalization, generally includes an extensive application to the federal government, submission of fingerprints to be used for a criminal background check by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, passing a language and civics exam, and an interview with a federal immigration officer. After this process, an immigrant is not yet a U.S. citizen until after the individual takes the Oath of Allegiance at a citizenship ceremony.

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