The Seattle’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) is actively engaged in developing programs and policies to facilitate the successful integration of immigrant and refugee residents into Seattle’s civic, economic, linguistic and cultural life. OIRA is currently engaged in designing a robust citizenship and civic engagement program that will build upon the work of the New Citizen Program that has been providing free naturalization services to low-income immigrants and refugees since 1997.
Since its inception, the New Citizen Program has served over 16,000 people, and successfully naturalized over 7,700. The consortium of 14 community-based organizations provides free services, including screening for citizenship eligibility, citizenship instruction/tutoring, interview preparation, assistance with submission of applications, disability and fee waivers, as well as referrals for legal assistance. The program co-sponsored a “Guide to Naturalization” with the Seattle Public Library, a booklet that provides information about naturalization, study materials for the exam, and lists organization that offer assistance with the naturalization process or ESL classes; the booklet is available in thirteen languages.
OIRA has recently entered into a partnership with USCIS and Seattle Public Libraries to host Citizenship Corners in libraries across Seattle. The City of Seattle also hosts naturalization ceremonies at City Hall, Seattle Center and the Central Library on an annual basis.