About Us

About CUNY Citizenship Now
Mission

CUNY Citizenship Now provides free, high quality, and confidential immigration law services to help individuals and families on their path to U.S. citizenship. Our attorneys and paralegals offer one-on-one consultations to assess participants’ eligibility for legal benefits and assist them in applying when qualified. We also coordinate community, educational, and volunteer initiatives to help expand opportunities for New York City’s immigrant population. 


History

In 1997, the City University of New York established CUNY Citizenship Now to address the growing need for free citizenship and immigration services among CUNY’s foreign-born students, faculty, and staff. Responding to high demand for these services in other communities, CUNY soon expanded its mission to benefit all New Yorkers. Under the leadership of Baruch College professor, NY Daily News columnist, and immigration attorney Allan Wernick, the organization has grown from modest beginnings into the country’s largest university-based citizenship and immigration law service provider. We now operate nine centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City.

CUNY Citizenship Now is the first and only university-based organization of its kind to engage volunteers in large-scale, community-based initiatives. Our weekend naturalization application assistance events allow us to reach out and provide citizenship assistance to a wide population of immigrants. Organized with the support of local leaders and staffed by volunteers and CUNY Citizenship Now attorneys and paralegals, these community and campus events have become one of the defining initiatives at the heart of our mission. The CUNY/ NYC Citizenship Now Volunteer Corps contains over 1,800 registered members. Over 450 of these members have joined and volunteered within the last year.   

CUNY Citizenship Now is committed to offering accessible and high-quality educational and training programs. After receiving a grant from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in 2010, we began to offer regularly-scheduled English and civics classes for eligible permanent residents. These free courses aim to prepare participants for the naturalization exam administered by the USCIS. We also engage our volunteers and other community members in frequent trainings and information sessions, and have partnered with the CUNY School of Professional Studies since 2007 to offer webinars on important immigration issues.

Since 2004, the annual CUNY/ Daily News Citizenship NOW! Call-In has provided over 123,000 callers with information on immigration issues ranging from residency to citizenship to petitions for family members. Over 350 volunteer attorneys and counselors staff this event each year, many of them trained by CUNY Citizenship Now The event is frequented by notable figures, which in the past have included Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, former Governor David Paterson, and Mayor Mike Bloomberg.  

Our success in recent years has been marked by a dramatic increase in both the number of clients we have served and our rate of returning volunteers.  In fiscal year 2012-2013, we assisted 10,922 participants, including helping over 996 people determine eligibility and apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). As we continue to grow, we are making efforts to expand our unique model to other cities.


Services

We provide assistance to the community with:

  • Naturalization
  • Relative petitions
  • Adjustment of status
  • Consular processing
  • Certificates of citizenship
  • Replacement of lost/damaged USCIS documents
  • Diversity Visa lottery entries
  • Fee Waiver applications
  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

We also offer:

  • Consultations on other immigration related issues
  • Free pictures for applications that require them
These services are available to the community in Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Polish, among other languages.


Accomplishments

CUNY Citizenship Now’s model combines free legal services, education, and volunteerism into a single initiative unlike any other citizenship and immigration service provider in the area. Highlighted below are some of our organization’s unique accomplishments:

  • At our centers alone, every year we assist over 8,000 participants with various immigration issues.
  • We maintain a Volunteer Corps with more than a thousand active members.
  • We provide free citizenship application assistance at weekend events held in partnership with local elected officials and community organizations.
  • We are the recipient of grants from numerous city, state, and national agencies. Grantors have included the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) and the Bureau of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance (BRIA). We also received a grant from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to offer free English and civics classes for citizenship applicants through 2013.
  • In 2012 our CUNY Express Center was chosen by the New York Department of State as a neighborhood-based Opportunity Center to help immigrants “fully participate in New York State civic and economic life by providing English-for-Speakers-of-Other-Languages training, helping legal permanent residents navigate the path to citizenship and encouraging entrepreneurship.”
  • In 2012 we partnered with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), NYC Service and the Legal Aid Society to launch the NYCitizenship Initiative, to help individuals navigate through the naturalization process.
  • We collaborate with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to make CUNY campuses available for citizenship swearing-in ceremonies.
  • Our free, public webinars, held in partnership with the CUNY School of Professional Studies, have featured some of the area’s top immigration attorneys and advocates.