IRC Helps Refugees Become United States Citizens
Having been initiated in January 2002, the Citizenship Initiative Program is a relatively new undertaking of the New York Resettlement Office. Already, however, the program has served over 200 refugees who want to become American Citizens. Through the Citizenship Initiative Program, IRC staff members provide free assistance to refugees and other individuals residing in New York State who seek to achieve United States Citizenship. Services are provided throughout the citizenship application process and include eligibility determination; application completion and submission; follow up work on applications already filed; preparation for the citizenship interview and the test in U.S. History and Civics that applicants are required to take; and, when necessary, legal assistance. Thanks to funding from New York State's Bureau of Refugee and Immigration Affairs, IRC is now able to provide these services at no cost.
The Citizenship Program was conceived of as an enhancement to the Office's pre-existing immigration program, through which IRC attempts to meet all of the immigration needs of the refugees it resettles. Like other resettlement services, most immigration services take place soon after a refugee's arrival in the United States. For instance, immediately after a refugee's arrival, IRC will help the refugee apply for an Employment Authorization Document, the INS-issued document that refugees need to show potential employers to prove that they are authorized to work in the United States. A year after arrival, IRC will help the refugee apply for a green card. Along the way, IRC may help the refugee file applications to bring their close family members to the United States. Citizenship assistance is unique in that it is provided five years after a refugee arrives - well outside the traditional resettlement period. However, the office is committed to providing these services to refugees even five years down the road; helping refugees become US Citizens allows the office to achieve its goal of ensuring that refugees become fully integrated into their new home country.