Knight Foundation supports the New Americans Campaign, a bipartisan national coalition working to modernize and streamline access to naturalization services. Above: Want citizenship? There's an app for that!
Today is Citizenship Day (aka “Constitution Day”), which commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787 and recognizes the efforts of people who have made the decision to become American citizens. It’s a great occasion to ask this question: Did you know that there are more than 8 million green card holders in this country (sometimes called “the forgotten 8 million”) who could become U.S. residents right now—if they only wanted to?
The New Americans Campaign, funded in part by Knight Foundation, aims to modernize the ways in which service providers help these Lawful Permanent Residents embark on the naturalization process. But to many green card holders it is tempting to maintain the status quo because they think they’re only missing out on the ability to vote. Many don’t realize that there are economic benefits—both for the individual and the nation—to becoming a citizen. For example, a study published in December 2012 by the University of Southern California (“Citizen Gain”) found that citizenship alone can boost individual earnings by 8 percent to 11 percent, leading to a potential $21 billion to $45 billion increase in cumulative earnings over 10 years nationwide. Becoming a U.S. citizen confers other benefits as well: Citizens often become more engaged in their communities, they gain the ability to sponsor family members for immigration, and many government employment opportunities require citizenship. If you are a Lawful Permanent Resident, head over to the NAC website, and simply enter your ZIP code for a list of free legal aid providers near you to get started with your citizenship application. CitizenshipWorks, a free app for Android and iOS phones can even help you get started. The NAC site also has a collection of materials about the economic benefits of citizenship, and a list of activities being sponsored by NAC partners throughout the month of September. So on this Citizenship Day, if you are a green card holder, mark this special occasion and “zip to citizenship” by entering your ZIP code. Just give it a try.