Closing the Gap: Transforming Legal Permanent Residents into Citizens

Posted on 09-24-2013 by
Tags: Real Law

Brought to you by Pro Bono Net and the Real Law Editorial Team

Almost nine million people are currently eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. That figure might be encouraging to those who recognize the invaluable role that immigration plays in communities and the nation as a whole, but consider this: only about one million naturalization petitions are filed annually. That massive gap is a concern among many in legal and advocacy circles. Now several prominent organizations are working to do something about it.

Together, the Immigration Advocates Network, Pro Bono Net and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center created CitizenshipWorks, an innovative online program that helps green card holders understand the naturalization process, determine their eligibility and prepare for the civics and English tests.

The resource also leverages LawHelp Interactive, a national online document assembly service that Pro Bono Net operates for the legal aid community to increase advocates’ efficiency in group processing workshops and clinics held across the United States.

A Simple Approach

CitizenshipWorks is used across the country by organizations participating in the New Americans Campaign, a groundbreaking national network committed to modernizing and streamlining access to naturalization services. At the core of CitizenshipWorks is a simple idea: separate the long and complicated application process into smaller components so people can more easily understand the individual steps and requirements.

Going Mobile

Studies have shown that low-income immigrant communities access the Internet primarily via mobile devices. To expand its reach, CitizenshipWorks recently launched a free mobile app in both the iTunes App Store and Google Play that allows green card holders to easily access CitizenshipWorks resources—anytime and anywhere.

Mobile features include on-the-go study materials for the civics and English tests, allowing applicants to study at their convenience (while commuting to and from work, for example). The app uses the location services found in most smartphones to help people find the nearest legal services provider. It also helps them organize and collect documents required for the application. Another tool lets users create a record of every trip they have taken outside the United States, which is used to calculate their eligibility for the physical presence naturalization requirement.

A New World

By helping clients better understand their eligibility and find legal services providers, and helping organizations serve clients more efficiently, technology will increase access to justice across a wide range of practice areas from immigration to consumer advocacy and family law.

To learn more about CitizenshipWorks, email info@citizenshipworks.org. To learn how you can get involved in citizenship efforts, visit newamericanscampaign.org or email info@newamericanscampaign.org.

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