Photo courtesy of Citizenship Works.

First-of-its-kind mobile citizenship app released today

Washington might be debating immigration reform, but for the many legal residents in the country who have yet to apply for citizenship, a free, first-of-its-kind app will be available to make the process much easier.

Pro Bono Net, as well as the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), and other organizations have announced a new smart phone app called CitizenshipWorks. The Android version has been out since January and the iPhone app was just made available on iTunes.

The Knight Foundation and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation had the idea for the app, so we (Pro Bono Net) worked with them on the CitizenshipWorks project,” says Tony Lu, the project coordinator for the Immigration Advocates Networks at Pro Bono Net. “CitizenshipWorks was first formed with the idea to create accessible resources for [legal permanent residents (LPR)] to determine whether or not they were eligible for naturalization, get resources to learn about the process, and find legal help.”

The app, available so far in Spanish as well as English, includes many features to streamline the process to becoming an American citizen. One location feature allows applicants to find the nearest Naturalization Service Provider based on their geological location or by searching with their zip code. These providers have partnered with Pro Bono Net and NALEO to organize free workshops to help people organize their applications. The app also has a checklist feature to help people keep track of the requirements they need to apply if people cannot make the workshops.

All three screen shots courtesy of Shineh Rhee.

All three screen shots courtesy of Citizenship Works.

One feature, the Trips Calculator, keeps track of exactly how long a person has been in the U.S. by logging the days in which the applicant has been on U.S. soil. It calculates how many days the LPR must stay in the U.S. before they may apply.

“It is a requirement that can be really cumbersome for people trying to add up all those days,” Lu says. “That is something our partners are really excited about, too, because they don’t have to take out a calendar to figure out their total days.”

NALEO has worked closely with Pro Bono Net so that the largest demographic of LPRs may be reached with this app: Latinos. Hispanics also are the most likely to use smartphone technology daily.

“Most people access the internet with mobile devices now. They are always on the move and we want to reach LPRs where they are and provide information that is also fluid and easy to understand,” says Julissa Gutierrez, Director of National Programs and Community Relations, Civic Engagement of NALEO Educational Fund, a New Americans Campaign national partner in a phone call.

Of the 13.1 million LPRs living in the U.S., an estimated 8.5 million are eligible to naturalize as U.S. citizens, Gutierrez said in an email. Almost 45 percent of LPRs eligible to naturalize are from Latin America (approximately 3.8 million), with Mexico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, El Salvador, and Colombia as the top five countries of origin.

“For us, we are dedicated to encouraging Latinos; the work carries itself across boundaries and ethnic, diverse group of organizations so there are 8 – 9 national partners,” Gutierrez says. “There are other parts of the product that have been incorporated to the New Americans Campaign to innovate the process of providing these services to the community.”

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