Beginning May 5th, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will be requiring the use of a new naturalization application that is 21 pages long, compared to the 10-page form currently used. Eligibility requirements have not changed. (Click here to see them.)
USCIS claims that the longer application includes more detailed instructions and information about eligibility, and thus should be easier to understand, while others argue that a lengthier form will intimidate citizen-hopefuls who speak English as a second (or third, or fourth…) language and take more time to fill out—a daunting prospect for organizations that assist prospective citizens.
Shortly after releasing news of the updated form, USCIS issued a press release about the availability of a grant for organizations that assist people interested in naturalizing.
What does this mean for translators and interpreters? I’m not sure, but I suspect that legal aid and similar organizations you might do pro bono work for may need extra help after May 5, and again in September when grant winners are announced. Consider offering your volunteer services now. You can help sight-translate forms, prepare supporting documents in English, give short presentations in non-English languages… and I’m sure you and your pro bono clients can think of others. The New Americans Campaign has a list of partners around the country you can contact.
Good luck to all the prospective Americans out there!