To boost citizenship and immigrant integration and be in consistence with recommendations from the White House Task Force on New America, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has developed a series of initiatives to improve customer service, highlight the importance of citizenship, and support aspiring citizens. These efforts are to help the process of economic mobility and social inclusion for newcomers and their children.
Citizenship Public Education and Awareness
According to the most recent estimates by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics, 8.8 million permanent residents (green card holders) are eligible to apply for citizenship. The analysis showed that the median time spent as a permanent resident before becoming a U.S. citizen is seven years. Green card holders who meet all eligibility requirements may apply for citizenship after five years, or after three years if they are married to a U.S. citizen.
USCIS launched the Citizenship Public Education and Awareness Campaign in July 2015 in an effort to raise awareness about the rights, responsibilities and importance of U.S. citizenship, and provide information on the naturalization process and USCIS educational resources. The campaign began by targeting digital media markets in California, New York, Texas, and Florida. Beginning this month, USCIS will expand the campaign into six additional states – New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, Virginia, Washington, and Arizona. Together, these 10 states are home to 75 percent of the country’s 13.3 million permanent residents.
USCIS has also released a new series of print ads in Korean, Spanish and Tagalog, along with new widgets (small, online applications that can be embedded into Web pages or social media sites) in English and Spanish.
These are some ways that community organizations can support the campaign:
- Place a USCIS widget on their organization’s website;
- Link to the campaign’s resources on their website;
- Distribute the campaign’s informational fliers to the public;
- Post USCIS print advertisements (posters) in waiting areas, classrooms, community centers, educational facilities and other high-visibility areas;
- Refer aspiring citizens to the Citizenship Resource Center; and
- Inform local media outlets about the availability of USCIS radio and video PSAs.
In addition, USCIS will use its Electronic Immigration System to notify permanent residents about their potential eligibility for naturalization (through a pop-up message) when they seek to renew or replace a green card.
New for Constitution Week this year, USCIS is inviting people to share six-word essays describing what citizenship means to them, using the hashtag #citizenship6.
Grants Supporting Citizenship and Immigrant Integration
USCIS continues to help build community capacity to prepare immigrants for citizenship through the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program. Today, USCIS announced nearly $10 million in grants to 40 organizations that will help permanent residents prepare and apply for U.S. citizenship. Located in 26 states, these organizations will receive federal funding to support citizenship preparation services for permanent residents through September 2017.
Since it began in 2009, the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program has awarded a total of $53 million through 262 competitive grants to public or private nonprofit organizations in 35 states and the District of Columbia. Now in its seventh year, the program has helped more than 122,000 permanent residents prepare for citizenship.
USCIS anticipates that approximately 25,000 permanent residents will receive citizenship preparation services by Sept. 30, 2017 as a result of the fiscal year (FY) 2015 awards issued through the grant program. An additional 12,000 permanent residents will be served under the ongoing FY 2014 program, which continues through Sept. 30, 2016.
For a full list of 2015 award recipients, visit uscis.gov/grants.
Outreach and Engagement with Municipal Governments
Since local communities play a critical role in welcoming and assisting immigrants, USCIS relies on state and local municipal partnerships to help educate immigrants about naturalization and lawful immigration. Through these partnerships, USCIS provides information and resources to support outreach and engagement, training and technical assistance, and citizenship education in communities. Today, USCIS announced new partnerships with Houston and Seattle and renewed partnerships with Chicago and the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee. With these announcements, USCIS now has a total of eight municipal partners.
Under these partnerships, USCIS has distributed more than 300,000 copies of educational materials on citizenship and the unauthorized practice of immigration law; established 330 citizenship corners in municipal facilities; conducted more than 20 naturalization information sessions; provided training on the naturalization process to library and other municipal staff members; aired USCIS educational videos and public service announcements on public broadcast stations; and conducted naturalization ceremonies at local government venues.
USCIS is also committed to supporting the White House’s Building Welcoming Communities Campaign. Welcoming communities are cities, counties or towns that strive to bring immigrants, refugees and U.S.-born residents together to create a positive environment for all. A key recommendation of the Task Force on New Americans’ action plan was to launch a campaign to support existing efforts and encourage additional communities to develop integration strategies tailored to their needs. As part of this effort, USCIS will provide technical assistance on citizenship education and outreach, and guidance on avoiding immigration services scams, to communities that commit to the campaign.