CITIZENSHIP AND BUSINESS: A WIN-WINOverview
In 1915, Bethlehem Steel was one of the first U.S. employers to provide free English language instruction to its immigrant workforce. Now, with 8.1 million immigrants currently eligible for citizenship and over 60 percent of non-naturalized foreign born reporting speaking limited English, the National Immigration Forum through its innovative initiative. The Bethlehem Project works with businesses to assist their eligible immigrant employees with the citizenship process so they become more valuable workers and full participants in the workplace, community, and economy.
Pilots have been established in 4 cities targeting legal permanent residents at their workplace:
- Los Angeles, California: nearly 1.6 million eligible for citizenship
- Miami, Florida: 520,000 eligible for citizenship
- Silicon Valley, California: 252,000 eligible for citizenship
- D.C. Metro Area: 270,000 eligible for citizenship
The Bethlehem Project facilitates accessible citizenship assistance through a three step process.
- Multiple pre-screening workshops will determine employees' eligibility and provide information about the application process.
- Workshops will be held during breaks or before/after work hours.
- Sessions offered using Skype or video-conferencing, or at a corporate property, library or local community center.
- Next, employees will be invited to an application workshop at the worksite or offsite.
- Receive in-person assistance and/or use Citizenship Works, a computer program that assists with determining eligibility and completing the application.
- To pass the naturalization test, immigrants must possess a basic knowledge of U.S. history and the U.S. Constitution (and the ability to read, understand and answer questions in English).
- Group and one-on-one tutorials will be provided, if possible, on site, or nearby.
Creating an innovative corporate-community partnership that helps employees become U.S. Citizens is a win-win, for workers and business workforce stability, bottom line, and internal and external reputation.
- Celebrates and highlights the diversity in your company's workforce;
- Helps with employee recruitment;
- Builds employee loyalty and retention;
- Creates inclusive work culture and aids productivity;
- Promotes understanding of immigrant workers within the company and provides opportunities; for relationship building between native born and foreign born employees;
- Generates goodwill amid a growing Hispanic consumer demographic in a globally competitive market;
- Creates positive publicity opportunities (if desired);
- For immigrants, becoming a citizen means the ability to realize the American Dream and make a long term investment in their families, communities and economy.
The program will be customized for each business but the basic components include:
- Business to identify a lead company contact to ensure close communication and coordination of all naturalization activities;
- Business to offer guidance such as the best times to offer the information, application and training sessions to minimize disruptions to work schedules and yet at the same time maximize opportunities for employees to participate;
- Business and the Forum to promote the availability of the program through various internal communications with employees such as newsletters or paystubs;
- The Forum to assist Business with external communications throughout the community demonstrating good community corporate social responsibility;
- Business and the Forum to plan for recognizing and congratulating employees who become citizens (optional);
- Business to provide space for information, application and civics instruction offerings;
- Business to offer coffee and refreshments at workshops or events;
- Business may host an event such as a citizenship celebration for employees and their families, perhaps on Citizenship Day in September or on the Fourth of July;
- Business to support workers as appropriate: paid time off, a naturalization fee match, payroll deduction savings plan.
Want to Get involved?
The National Immigration Forum (Forum) is the organizer and manager – acting as the go-between with local and national businesses and regional community agencies that provide citizenship facilitation. The Forum identifies regional service providers equipped to offer citizenship training and works with businesses to coordinate the training with the service providers. The Forum ensures the quality and effectiveness of training.
Employers and Businesses
We are always looking for innovative companies that are in the forefront as strategic diversity leaders. These companies understand the value of fostering inclusion to recruit and develop a workforce who can understand and connect with an increasingly diverse consumer base.
Current Bethlehem Project businesses include J.W. Marriott-Washington, DC; InterContinental Hotel-South Beach; and the Betsy Hotel-South Beach.
Legal Services, Civics, and Vocation ESL Providers
We are part of the New Americans Campaign (NAC) and collaborate with NAC legal service providers in our pilot cities. If you are interested in partnering with the Bethlehem project or learning more about engaging businesses around citizenship contact us.
The National Immigration Forum works on immigrant integration policy through the Naturalization Working Group, a collection of legal service providers, refugee resettlement agencies, faith groups, and immigrant rights organizations working to help immigrants become American citizens, either through the provision of direct services or through advocacy for policies that will make the naturalization process a smoother one. For businesses seeking to get involved with naturalization, workforce development, or immigration reform policy change, contact us.
Start-up funding to launch this innovative naturalization partnership has been privately funded by national and local regional foundations. Fundraising is ongoing nationally and regionally. Participating businesses have both in-kind and sponsorship opportunities to support the Project. Businesses have the option of assisting with providing funds for service providers, matching citizenship application fees, providing internal support with time and space, etc. More information is available.
For more information about the Bethlehem Project and for contact information, click here for our outreach flyer.
More examples of business outreach flyers: