CitizenshipWorks released an app this week, available through Google Play or the iTunes app store, geared toward helping U.S. immigrants prepare for the lengthy and somewhat daunting task of applying for citizenship.
Currently geared toward green card holders who already reside legally in the United States, in order to help them become permanent residents, the app's content and function have already been made available on the CitizenshipWorks website, according to Good.
However, with a key provision of the Senate immigration reform legislation focusing on creating an "achievable path to citizenship" for the 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally, in time the app could broaden its horizon to offer assistance on that complicated task as well. It could also arguably expand the number of clientele monumentally.
Among the app's many features, the CitizenshipWorks app helps its users understand the process of naturalization, or obtaining permanent residency. The app also details what steps to take from beginning to end in the process of becoming a legal permanent resident (LPR), including what is required to become a U.S. citizen, what risks may be involved, how and where to find legal assistance, directions on completing and filing the necessary applications with appropriate agencies, help to prepare and study for the English and Civics tests that are part of the complex process, as well as offering other helpful information and relevant resources, according to the company website.
Though the Senate immigration reform legislation has encouraged much progress, undocumented immigrants in the United States still have a long road to travel before they can adopt LPR status, let alone obtain legal citizenship. According to AmericanProgress.org, anyone without status who entered the U.S. before Dec. 31, 2011 and meets the eligibility requirements, can apply for temporary registered provisional immigrant (RPI) status, which requires a $500 fine in addition to application fees, passing a background check and submitting biometric identification data.
After successfully obtaining the status, the individual then has six years before the status must be renewed, which requires an additional $500 fine, another background check and proof of work status and income level. After 10 years of being classified RPI status, an immigrant can apply for a change in status to LPR.
To achieve LPR status, one is required to pay a $1,000 fine in additional to more application fees, pass additional background checks and provide additional proof of work status and satisfactory income level throughout the whole time that they were classified as RPI. If able to pass through these hurdles, the immigrant must remain classified as an LPR for a minimum of three years, and then, finally, they are given the option to apply for U.S. citizenship.
So, in essence, the CitizenshipWorks app will eventually become a potentially valuable tool for any immigrant in this country, legal or otherwise. While the process for legal immigrants to become U.S. citizens is a shorter and seemingly less complex process, the app is certainly an asset, or it could be, if taken advantage of and utilized. For any undocumented illegal immigrant going through the 10+ year journey toward citizenship (assuming such an opportunity is not revoked once immigration reform legislation is revised, or revoked as it makes its rounds in the House), an expanded tool to assist in reaching LPR would likely be highly appreciated.
Whether it's CitizenshipWorks, or another pro-immigration, tech-savvy organization, advancement by way of products and services like this could prove invaluable to a customer base of countless millions, and may also prove to offer tremendous financial return for innovators and manufacturers able to perfect this type of application and market it appropriately.
"Our outdated naturalization system holds back millions of...residents from obtaining the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship," said Damian Thorman, national program director for Knight Foundation, a sponsor of the app. "Technology can help break down those barriers."