South Asians Must Take Advantage Of “NaturalizeNY”: Rajkumar

Jenifer Rajkumar, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Director of Immigrant Affairs (Photo courtesy of Jenifer Rajkumar)

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Director of Immigrant Affairs Jenifer Rajkumar wants South Asians to take advantage of the second round of “NaturalizeNY” launched last week. She is reaching out to various ethnic groups to encourage them to do so.

The public-private partnership to encourage eligible immigrants in New York State to become U.S. citizens, attempts to provide “comprehensive” support through the naturalization process – featuring free eligibility screenings, application assistance, naturalization exam preparation.

The newest addition in round two is a lottery for up to 1,500 vouchers for low-income citizenship-eligible immigrants.

“Naturalize NY was launched last year and has been very successful,” Rajkumar told Desi Talk. “I want to especially make sure that the South Asian community takes advantage of this,” she added, pointing to the 1,500 vouchers which will help meet the fee for acquiring citizenship.

According to Rajkumar, there are approximately 1 million New Yorkers who hold a Green Card or permanent residency and are eligible for citizenship. “We find that if every Green Card eligible person became a citizen, it would be a huge boost to the economy. It would add $823 million to the City’s economy alone because when one immigrant becomes a citizen, it leads to a 9 percent increase in income,” she said, which then affects other aspects such as more taxes for the state etc.

“We want to make new immigrants feel welcome in these stormy times at the federal level,” Rajkumar said. “I will be reaching out to Indians, Bangladeshi, Pakistani communities to make sure they take advantage, not just through the media, but I’m also raveling around the state,” to meet community leaders and others, Rajkumar said.

She encouraged those interested in becoming citizens to apply “as soon as possible” as winners of the vouchers will be announced in August.

NaturalizeNY is administered by the New York State Office for New Americans in partnership with the Robin Hood Foundation, New York Community Trust, universities including Stanford University, George Mason University, and SUNY Albany, and media organizations.


Through its first six months after NaturalizeNY was launched in July 2016, it has helped more than 3,200 immigrant New Yorkers pursue United States citizenship, including more than 2,250 low-income immigrants, said a press release from the Governor’s office.

Nearly 960 immigrant New Yorkers registered for the initial round of the randomized lottery in 2016, and 389 were awarded a fee voucher and submitted their application to the federal government last December. The number of fee vouchers being raised to 1,500 this year affords more low-income New Yorkers to avail of the service.

According to the press release, some 654,720 immigrants in in New York City are eligible to apply for citizenship.  A 2015 study conducted by the Urban Institute found that a main reason these individuals have not applied is the cost of the application, the release says. Eligibility depends on household size and income.

(For more information and to register for the lottery, visit Additional information is available by calling the New Americans Hotline, at 1-800-566-7636.)



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