As part of an annual Constitution Day and Citizenship Day conference, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) this year announced several new opportunities and resources for US Citizenship applications, including $7.8 million in grants offered to community groups as well as a new online Citizenship Resource Center. The grants will go to 75 organizations who promote immigrant integration and citizenship education. The grants will help new immigrants pursue their plans for citizenship, according to the USCIS. The 2010 grants are a significant funding increase over 2009, when the USCIS offered $1.2 million to 13 organizations.
The funding will help organizations provide classes for those pursuing naturalization and will help provide additional citizenship services to naturalization applicants. The grants will be distributed through two grant programs. The Direct Services Grant Program contains money earmarked for local organizations that provide classes and naturalization preparation services. The money will help these organizations grow in order to help more applicants. The National Capacity Building Grant Program is aimed at regional, national, and state organizations. The money offered through these grants will allow these organizations to grow and offer more support at the community level. The organizations receiving grant money are diverse and include community organizations, adult education programs, community colleges, faith-based bodies, public schools and educational institutions, and public libraries.
The online Citizenship Resource Center is a resource designed for teachers, organizations, immigrants, and the general public. The Citizenship Resource Center will combine various citizenship resources in a user-friendly and free-to-use portal that will help people navigate the citizenship process and will help applicants study for the citizenship test as well. The website will include interactive educational modules, podcasts, links to a special America’s Literacy Directory, and educational tools for teachers offering citizenship classes. The resource is a one-stop resource for citizenship. Applicants will be able to use the Citizenship Resource Center to find out more about the naturalization process and to find help. Teachers offering citizenship preparation materials will be able to find lesson plans, teaching ideas and other resources. Citizenship and immigration organizations will be able to find grants, support for clients, and success stories.
The changes come at a time when more people are pursuing citizenship. According to the USCIS website, close to 500, 000 people had become US citizens by September 2010. This is an increase over some past years. The additional applicants mean that there is a greater demand for citizenship preparation services and information. With the USCIS funding and online resources, hopefully more applicants will find the naturalization process easy and fulfilling to navigate.