New Effort Will Help Eligible Immigrants Become Citizens of the United States

In mid-July, Governor Andrew Cuomo launched a statewide effort to help eligible immigrants become U.S. citizens. “NaturalizeNY,” a first-in-the-nation public-private partnership that will encourage and assist eligible New York State immigrants with becoming U.S. citizens through the naturalization process.


The New York State Office for New Americans, (ONA), will work alongside Catholic Charities and other nonprofit organizations throughout the State to provide free eligibility screenings, application assistance, and naturalization exam preparation. The new effort will also feature a lottery that will cover the cost of the several hundreds of dollars federal naturalization application fee  for 2,000 low-income citizenship-eligible immigrants.

Within the first few days of the announcement, the ONA New Americans Hotline operated by Catholic Charities received 1,790 calls in connection to the NaturalizeNY initiative.  

“People wanted to know if they were eligible for the NaturalizeNY program and how to apply for the application fee lottery,” said Mario Russell, Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services at Catholic Charities NY.   “Many were referred to the ONA Opportunity Centers in their area. We encourage people interested to call the New Americans Hotline and find out if they are eligible or if they have any other immigration question,” stated Russell.

To help eligible immigrants become U.S. citizens, the Office for New Americans (ONA) will host citizenship and naturalization legal clinics at its 27 Opportunity Centers, including two operated by  Catholic Charities –in Newburgh and Poughkeepsie, New York.

Gareth Shippy, 40, a native of Jamaica, was one of the very first people to apply for the lottery at the Catholic Charities Opportunity Center in Poughkeepsie, NY.  “I have been to the Catholic Charities ONA Center several times to discuss what my options are to becoming a citizen.  I know that I will receive good, trusted advice from the people at the Center on how to begin my citizenship process,” stated Mr. Shippy. “I am eligible for this program because I have a green card and have been in this country for 5 years.  My dream is to become a citizen and bring my wife and three children to America.  I want to go back to school and become an electrical engineer for the automobile industry, a course of study I began in my country. To win the lottery to help me pay for the application fee, would be a great help, wonderful an awesome feeling,” concluded Shippy. 

Interested green card holders can determine their eligibility for citizenship and their eligibility for the lottery by visiting the Naturalize NY website at Prospective applicants may also call the New Americans hotline operated by Catholic Charities at 1-800-566-7636 to enter the lottery or with any immigration questions. Registration is open to New Yorkers starting July 13th until September 23th, 2016.