The New York Legal Assistance Group has been awarded a $250,000 grant from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to help 750 eligible lawful permanent residents become U.S. citizens. Under the terms of the grant, NYLAG will provide direct legal services to help clients prepare and complete their citizenship applications, with a special focus on low-income immigrants from China and the Former Soviet Union. To holistically serve clients, the agency will partner with the Edith and Carl Marks Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst (JCHB), which will provide citizenship education classes.

In 2012, less than 10% of legal permanent residents living in New York City who were eligible applied for naturalization. Those who are eligible but do not apply tend to be low-income, with limited English proficiency and low education levels. The new grant partnership aims to increase the number of applicants through a combined approach of offering free, high-quality naturalization application assistance and citizenship instruction.

“Thanks to this generous grant from USCIS, NYLAG, in collaboration with our friends at JCHB, will be able to help hundreds of low-income New Yorkers achieve their dreams of becoming U.S. citizens and fully contributing members of their communities, and of our nation.” said Irina Matiychenko, Director of NYLAG’s Immigrant Protection Unit.

“Achieving citizenship is the result of hard work and preparation, and we are proud to play a role in such an important process,” said Vladimir Vishnevsky, Director of Immigration Services for JCHB. “By helping immigrants improve their English language skills and learn about our country’s history and government, and the rights and responsibilities that define citizenship, we will help them civically integrate – and that’s good for us all.”

NYLAG has been representing clients in naturalization cases since its inception in 1990. As New York’s third largest civil legal services provider, and one of the largest immigration service providers, the agency served 36,570 low-income immigrants last year alone. NYLAG’s immigration staff attorneys, who speak two dozen languages, screen each client for any available path to citizenship, and handle all immigration issues that may arise. Clients are also assisted with other legal needs and referred in-house to attorneys specializing in housing, health care, public benefits, workers’ rights, consumer law, family law, and eviction prevention.

JCHB, founded in 1927, has 30 years of experience running free Adult Education/ESL (English as a Second Language) programs. Its English Language/Citizenship Preparation program has been offered for nine years. JCHB also provides a wide range of other social services including job training and placement, case management, and public benefits assistance.

One of 40 grants made nationwide, USCIS delivered the announcement on September 17, to coincide with National Constitution Week. A fitting concurrence, this week more than 18,000 people are set to become citizens at approximately 180 naturalization ceremonies across the country and overseas.