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Partner: NYC's Office of Financial Empowerment

Addressing the issue of low financial literacy of immigrants and newcomers to the US, in partnership with NYC's Office of Financial Empowerment, New Americans Project is proposing two services on how to connect the NYCitizenship program with access and awareness of financial services. Each of New Americans services—New American Circle and New American Kiosk— is responding to different needs and leverages different NYC immigrant communities qualities. 


 We conducted workshops and interview sessions with Civic test class participants to better understand their challenges and concerns. And had multiple site visits using fly on the wall method to observe how libraries are used in different neighborhoods by different communities. 



Fly on the wall: Green card holders ready for naturalization process in line for English class registration at Jackson Heights, Queens public library

We created an app, a group game, and a survey to better understand challenges and struggles of Civic test class participants.



Through our research in New York libraries, we found that informal communities is an important pillar within the Legal Permanent Resident—LPR— population. These informal communities are bonded together by shared languages and cultures and play an essential role in disseminating information, building trust, and harnessing participation.

—available throughout the naturalization process. She had heard that because there is an English proficiency portion of the citizenship test, the expectation is that all LPRs undergoing the process should be fluent in English. She and many others, are conversational in lack of multilingual resources.  One participant lamented the English, but lacks confidence in their translation/understanding of legal and financial vocabulary.—

  —One participant expressed that it was sad that only failed cases came back to the Civic class. No one comes back to share their success stories, only failures.—

We designed an event based program for NYCitizenship participants at New York Libraries, to make a community of LPR and new citizens. The monthly event offers the opportunity of finding more information about citizenship program from experts and peers, when the program's alumnus come back to the events as ambassadors and share their experience with new participants in their native language. Through this community making events, NYCitizenship program aims to acquire applicants inquiries and provide them with financial experts one-on-one meetings. 

Event Guide book for librarians and NYCitizenship program agents

Librarians may organize the event using the  NEW AMERICANS toolkit, which includes the event materials such as language buttons, question cards, and posters. The event guide book is also provided to walk them through each step of event setup and help the program brand to be universal in all the New York metropolinat library branches.

New American Circle reusable toolkit for librarians



During the interview sessions, we learnt that the lack of awareness regarding the available financial services and the stigma surrounding the discussion of one’s finances are big barriers for developing financial literacy. In many cultures, individuals are not comfortable with disclosing financial information to an agent and may be more honest about their financial situation when they examine it privately. In addition, in some cases, low English proficiency can cause some confusions in understanding financial concepts.

New Digital Americans is a private multi lingual service available during Screening/Intake and Attorney appointments during NYCitizenship programs. The New American application takes user to a journey of making and designing an avatar that represent themselves. The anonymous avatar will be introduced to available financial services based on their situations and difficulties during the game. 


The service is expected to save librarians and NYCitizenship agents the time for investigating citizenship applicants' financial background and provide a safe and fun environment for the user to evaluate their financial status while being introduced to free financial services in  the city.

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