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.
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 nearly 100,000 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 2009-2010, we assisted 10,850 participants, including over 900 Haitians seeking Temporary Protected Status after the tragic 2010 earthquake. As we continue to grow, we are making efforts to expand our unique model to other cities.
We provide assistance to the community with:
- Relative petitions
- Adjustment of status
- Consular processing
- Certificates of citizenship
- Replacement of lost/damaged USCIS documents
- Diversity Visa lottery entries
- Fee Waiver applications
We also offer:
- Consultations on other immigration related issues
- Free pictures for applications that require them
CUNY Citizenship Now! is the most comprehensive university-based immigration service provider in the United States. Our model combines free legal services, education, and volunteerism into a single initiative unlike any other citizenship and immigration law service provider in the area. Highlighted below are some of CUNY Citizenship Now’s unique accomplishments:
- We have assisted over 90,000 participants during our 15 years of service to the community.
- We operate seven full-time immigration centers fully accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals, as well as two part-time centers. We also offer services from the offices of NYC Council Members Jumaane Williams, Julissa Ferreras, and Ydanis Rodriguez.
- In the last five years, we have held over 200 community events in partnership with local officials and organizations. In 2010, our Volunteer Corps of more than 500 active members assisted over 1,200 clients with their naturalization forms.
- We have received grants from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Bureau of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance (Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance), the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development, the Immigrant Opportunities Initiative, and Hope for Haiti Healing.
- In the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake, we assisted over 900 Haitians in obtaining Temporary Protected Status. This event was a collaboration with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).
- Since 2004, volunteers at the annual CUNY/ Daily News Citizenship Now! Call-In have provided over 100,000 callers with information on immigration issues ranging from residency to citizenship to petitions for family members.
- Collaboration with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to make CUNY campuses available for naturalization swearing-in ceremonies.
- Our Citizenship Now! webinars, in partnership with the CUNY School of Professional Studies, has featured some of the area’s top immigration attorneys and advocates.