NEW YORK, June 25, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Low-income immigrants in New York can now apply for citizenship for free through the NaturalizeNY program. The program is a unique public-private venture sponsored by Robin Hood, New York Community Trust, and the New York State Office for New Americans. Eligible immigrants can receive a voucher worth up to $725 to cover the cost of submitting their application for citizenship. In the past two years, the program has awarded more than 900 vouchers worth over $500,000 to eligible immigrants in New York.

Veyom Bahl, a managing director at Robin Hood, said, “For the past 30 years, Robin Hood has been committed to one mission: fighting poverty in New York City. By becoming U.S. citizens, our neighbors get access to new economic opportunities. At Robin Hood, we are proud to join our partners in supporting New Yorkers as they build stronger futures for their families."

Immigrants who register for NaturalizeNY are entered into a lottery for a chance to win a voucher that covers the $725 naturalization application fee. Regardless of whether they win a voucher, all participants can also receive comprehensive assistance in completing and sending in their application forms. Key to the program’s success is the outreach efforts of program partners, such as the City University of New York, Catholic Charities, and Hispanic Federation.  New Yorkers can verify their eligibility and register by visiting www.naturalizeny.org or calling the New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636. Registration opened May 1 and the deadline has been extended to July 3.

In the United States, 8.9 million immigrants are eligible to naturalize, and it is estimated that 1 million of them live in New York. However, only a small percentage of them apply to become citizens in a given year. This is despite the fact that the majority of U.S. immigrants, when surveyed, say they want to become citizens.

Research from Stanford’s Immigration Policy Lab has shown that the cost of the citizenship application acts as a barrier for many low-income immigrants who would like to pursue citizenship. Immigrants who received a voucher through NaturalizeNY were more than twice as likely to apply for citizenship.

Thirty years ago, the cost to apply was only $35, but over time the fees have risen sharply. The most recent increase came in 2016, when the cost rose to $725. Many immigrant families cannot afford this fee and never apply despite aspiring to citizenship.

In order to qualify for NaturalizeNY, registrants must be naturalization-eligible lawful permanent residents (green card holders) residing in New York State and have incomes below 300 percent of the federal poverty guideline. They must not be eligible for a federal fee waiver. Registrants who win a voucher will be notified at the end of June and referred to an Office of New Americans Opportunity Center to complete the naturalization application and receive their voucher.

Shawn Morehead, a program director at The New York Community Trust, said, “We want the newest New Yorkers to work, vote, and feel safe in our City. The Trust has a long history of helping the City’s immigrants participate fully in the city’s economy and democracy, and we’re thrilled to continue this tradition by underwriting the cost of applying for citizenship for hundreds of our neighbors.”

Citizenship provides significant benefits, including protection from deportation, the right to vote, ease of travel abroad, and the ability to help family members become citizens. According to a study by the Urban Institute, immigrants who naturalize also see an almost 9 percent increase in their income compared to those who have not naturalized.

About Robin Hood

Robin Hood is New York’s largest poverty-fighting organization. We find, fund, and create more than 200 highly effective programs that are helping 1.8 million New Yorkers learn and earn their way out of poverty. Because our board of directors underwrites all operating costs, 100% of each donation goes directly to organizations helping New Yorkers in need. http://www.robinhood.org Facebook: facebook.com/robinhood Twitter: @robinhoodnyc

About The New York Community Trust:

Since 1924, The New York Community Trust has helped make donors’ charitable wishes come true by funding the nonprofits that expand opportunities for all New Yorkers. The New York Community Trust connects past, present, and future generous New Yorkers with vital nonprofits working to make a healthy, equitable, and thriving community for all. It is a public grantmaking foundation dedicated to improving the lives of residents of New York City, Westchester, and Long Island. More at www.nycommunitytrust.org.

About the Office for New Americans:

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo established the Office for New Americans (ONA) to assist newcomers to New York State who are eager to contribute to its  economy and become part of the family of New York State. ONA, the nation's first statutorily created immigrant services office, recently celebrated its fifth anniversary. Since its inception, ONA has helped more than 200,000 New Americans navigate the naturalization process, start and grow their own businesses, learn English, and become part of New York's diverse community. More at https://www.newamericans.ny.gov/

Contact:
Marc Smrikarov
marcs@chatham-strategies.com