On Wednesday, U.S. Citizenship and Integration Services (USCIS) announced that it is accepting applications for its Citizenship and Integration Grant Program. The grants are available on a competitive basis to nonprofit or public-sector organizations that provide citizenship preparation classes and application assistance to immigrants eligible to naturalize.
The agency will award up to 40 grants and up to $10 million total. The maximum award will be $250,000 to be spent over a two-year period. This year, funding for the grants will be taken from the Examination Fees Account, which comprises the fees immigrants pay for immigration and naturalization applications. Congress provided no additional funding for the grants in the fiscal 2015 budget that passed March 3.
The Citizenship and Integration Grant Program offers a salient opportunity for naturalization and integration programs across the U.S. to secure necessary funding. USCIS has established a system of credentials for organizations to meet in order to qualify for grant funding. Permitted organizations must promote civic integration through improved knowledge of English, U.S. history and civics, and properly prepare residents for naturalization.
Public and private nonprofits may apply for the program. Other qualifying groups include, but are not limited to, public school systems, universities and community colleges; civic, community and faith-based organizations; adult-education organizations; public libraries; volunteer and literacy organizations; and state and local governments. Because grants run for a two-year period, organizations that received funding in fiscal year 2014 do not qualify for funding in fiscal year 2015.
This is the seventh year of the program, and USCIS already has disbursed about $43 million in 222 grants. Grantees have served about 100,000 naturalization applicants in 35 states and the District of Columbia. According to the grant materials, USCIS expects that each grantee in this cycle will provide citizenship instruction and application services to 200 eligible immigrants over the course of the two-year grant period.
Improved opportunities to learn citizenship-focused skills, such as understanding of English, knowledge of U.S. history and government, and understanding one’s rights and responsibilities as an American are just some of the benefits that these grant-funded programs have created.
New Americans Campaign partners have received USCIS grants. Last year, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles was awarded a grant that enabled them to expand their services. Advancing Justice – LA used its funding to establish expansive English as a Second Language and civics classes targeted at the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community in the Los Angeles area. These classes are vital to serve the needs of an already large and expanding community of aspiring citizens in the city.
The availability of these services has inspired and will continue to motivate people who are eligible to pursue citizenship. Applying for one of these grants is an excellent opportunity for organizations whose mission is to help immigrants become new Americans.
The deadline for applications is May 15, and USCIS expects to announce the winners on or about Sept. 17, Citizenship Day. For additional information, click on the following links: