Governor Andrew Cuomo today launched the second round of "NaturalizeNY" – the first-of-its-kind public-private partnership to encourage 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 for round two, a lottery for up to 1,500 vouchers for low-income citizenship-eligible immigrants. NaturalizeNY is administered by the New York State Office for New Americans in partnership with the Robin Hood Foundation, New York Community Trust, universities including Stanford University, George Mason University, and SUNY Albany, and media organizations.
"The New York story is written by immigrants, who come from all over the world seeking a better life for themselves and their families as New Yorkers," Governor Cuomo said. "In these stormy times, we are sending a clear message – we welcome you into the New York family, where we know that our diversity is our strength."
NaturalizeNY is administered by the New York State Office for New Americans in partnership with the Robin Hood Foundation, New York Community Trust, universities including Stanford University, George Mason University, and SUNY Albany, and media organizations.
Governor Cuomo launched NaturalizeNY last July, and through its first six months, has helped more than 3,200 immigrant New Yorkers pursue United States citizenship, including over 2,250 low-income immigrants. Low-income immigrants, with the help of the program, can save on the cost of the federal application fee. The program features a lottery that awards naturalization application fee vouchers. Nearly 960 immigrant New Yorkers registered for the initial round of the randomized lottery in 2016, and 389 were awarded a fee voucher and submitted their application to the federal government last December. Up to 1,500 vouchers will be awarded in round two of the program.
In the second round, the program will continue to provide the resources to help thousands more citizenship-eligible New Yorkers, who may register for the program at www.NaturalizeNY.org.
"New York represents a land of opportunity and inclusion for all who come to be part of our family, grow our economy and help enrich the cultural life of our great state," New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said. "The incredible response to NaturalizeNY last year served as a testament to our state’s rich immigration history that still exists to this very day, stronger than ever. New York will continue its proud tradition of welcoming those who come here looking to achieve the American Dream."
NaturalizeNY provides free comprehensive support through the naturalization process, including eligibility screenings, application assistance, naturalization exam preparation, and federal fee waiver application assistance. In addition to expanding opportunity for New Yorkers, NaturalizeNY will also provide a boost to the state’s economy.
A 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 of $823 million.
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. A 2015 study conducted by the Urban Institute found that a main reason these individuals have not applied for citizenship is related to the cost of the application. There is an application to have the federal fee waived for low-income immigrants, but for many working prospective applicants who earn too much to qualify for the waiver the cost of applying for citizenship can be a deterrent. For example, for an individual earning $35,000 a year, too much to qualify for a federal fee waiver, the cost of applying for citizenship works out to the equivalent of about a week’s pay.
To support up to 1,500 citizenship applicants, New York State, the Robin Hood Foundation and the New York Community Trust are investing more than $1.25 million to cover the $725 application fee through fee assistance vouchers. The funding will be paid directly to the federal government by the campaign partners and cover the full cost of the naturalization process. Vouchers will be awarded following the lottery in August, and administered by personnel from the Office for New Americans, SUNY Albany, Stanford University and George Mason University.
Eligibility depends on household size and income. Prospective applicants can do a pre-screening for citizenship, check their eligibility, and register for the lottery by visiting www.NaturalizeNY.org; additional information is available by calling the New Americans Hotline, at 1-800-566-7636.
There are an estimated 464,000 immigrant New Yorkers eligible to have the naturalization application fee waived by the federal government. Many are unaware they are eligible to apply for free. To date, NaturalizeNY has helped over 2,250 people access a waiver through the program’s free eligibility screenings and assistance in filling out a fee waiver application.
The Federal Fee Waiver is available to individuals whose household income is 150 percent or below the Federal Poverty Guidelines, while the NaturalizeNY Lottery is open to those who are at 150 percent – 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director, Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of New York said, "Not only should we warmly welcome newcomers, but we should genuinely seek to integrate immigrants and refugees into New York. This means providing opportunities for success that newcomers have come to this country to achieve. Doing this helps all New Yorkers as immigrants have contributed so much of their energy, talent and vitality to make New York the business, civic and cultural leader it has always been. NaturalizeNY is another way to make sure that immigrants are offered the chance to become more fully part of our communities and make ongoing contributions to their new home."