As part of New York State’s NaturalizeNY immigration program, the government announced that it is footing all application fees for around 2,000 low-income immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship, with the winners to be chosen by a randomized lottery.
The lottery is part of an effort to assist poor immigrants unable to pay the $680 application fee for citizenship, and is open to 160,000 immigrants in New York with low incomes, but not low enough to qualify for federal assistance. Individuals with annual incomes between $30,240 and $60,480 are eligible for the lottery.
New York Government Andrew Cuomo announced the lottery would be a collaborative effort of the NaturalizeNY program and several civic groups, charities, and other nonprofits. According to New York Secretary of State Rosado, the application fee, which will reportedly go up to $725 soon, presents a major financial challenge to many immigrants struggling to make ends meet, let alone pay for an application with no guarantees of success. She added that while citizenship is an obstacle, it shouldn’t be a luxury.
The federal government already lends assistance to immigrants in the lowest income bracket, with more than 400,000 individuals in the state alone eligible for help, many of whom Rosado said don’t even know they can receive. She also hopes that lottery serves as a way to reach out to immigrants who aren’t aware of the federal government’s fee waiver.
Governor Cuomo officially approved the lottery program after it was first suggested by immigration rights proponents. Donations from the private sector will also be used to help the state shoulder the cost of the application fees.
In a press briefing, Cuomo said that the United States is a nation built by immigrants, and that New York believes in the power of diversity, calling it the state’s greatest asset. He added that the program should send a clear message to the world, that the country opens everyone willing to join the community and grow the economy with open arms.
Immigration rights advocates hope the program continues to be available to immigrants in future years, as researchers from Stanford University, George Mason University, and the State University of New York at Albany continue to study the economic factors behind naturalization.
To apply for the lottery program, visit NaturalizeNY.org or contact the New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636.
Learn more about NaturalizeNY and other immigration initiatives by the government by sitting down for a consultation with the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call us today at (512) 215.5225.