September 17 is Citizenship Day, and in honor of this important occasion, New York State Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez announced the launch of the New York State Citizenshipworks Portal. Through Citizenshipworks, eligible immigrants can apply for citizenship for free through an online tool that is secure and simple to use. The New York State Citizenshipworks Portal, in partnership with the New York State Office for New Americans (ONA), also includes access to a virtual ONA Opportunity Center, to support clients of ONA community partners (e.g., English Language providers, workforce partners, and Community Action Agencies) in need of naturalization assistance services, such as completing the citizenship application. Training and technical assistance is also being provided to ONA Opportunity Centers that use Citizenshipworks to deliver naturalization services.
“Many immigrants come here in search of more opportunities and a better life for themselves and their families. As they go through this process, we hope that the new Citizenshipworks tool will be a helpful guide in their quest to achieve citizenship,” said Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez.
According to the Center for Migration Studies, over 800,000 individuals are currently eligible to naturalize throughout New York State. With the launch of this initiative, New Yorkers will now be able to access free and trustworthy assistance with their citizenship application online and from the comfort of their home.
The advantages of citizenship are often life-changing, including economic mobility, the ability to vote and participate fully in the democratic process, decreased vulnerability to immigration enforcement, and the ability to receive certain government benefits. Many of these benefits lead to increased social and economic security for immigrant families and communities. Naturalized citizens are more likely to invest in their future and in their communities and are able to participate more fully in society.
Technology-based interventions like Citizenshipworks are particularly well-suited to address many of the barriers to naturalization, including improving access to in-language resources, bridging geographic gaps for applicants who live in rural areas or without adequate access to public transportation, and increasing the availability of legal assistance through virtual interventions.
“We are honored to partner with the New York State Office for New Americans to help bring naturalization services directly to New Yorkers. New York is pioneering the delivery of legal services that bridge the digital divide and ensure that every New Yorker has access to benefits that come with citizenship," said Director of the Immigration Advocates Network Rodrigo Camarena.
In addition to the New York State Citizenshipworks Portal, ONA provides other free support for immigrants going through the naturalization process. Through its statewide network of Opportunity Centers – Civics, immigrants can access free naturalization application assistance and free citizenship prep classes, to prepare them for the naturalization interview. ONA’s Cell-Ed program also provides virtual citizenship test prep modules, that can be accessed through any type of mobile device.
Citizenshipworks is a project of the Immigration Advocates Network, a program of Pro Bono Net, a collaborative effort of leading immigrant rights organizations dedicated to increasing access to justice. The Network partners with selected top immigrant advocacy groups to identify challenges and potential for tech solutions, as well as to develop industrial-strength, immigrant legal tech that is secure, easy to use, and designed for scale. Pro Bono Net is also partnering with the Legal Services division of GMHC, which will provide application review services and virtual consultations for applicants who require assistance from a lawyer or DOJ-accredited representative to complete their applications to file for a fee waiver.
The New York State Office for New Americans, founded in 2012, is the nation’s first statutorily created immigrant services office. ONA assists all new Americans with accessing and navigating a variety of free services and support through its statewide network of community-based providers.
For any immigrant in need of assistance, or to connect with ONA’s programs, call the New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636, 9 AM to 8 PM, Monday through Friday. All calls are confidential. Assistance is available in over 200 languages. For more information, visit dos.ny.gov/office-new-americans or follow ONA on Twitter at @NYSNewAmericans or Facebook at facebook.com/NYSNewAmericans.