For many immigrants, applying for citizenship can be a complicated and confusing process. Obtaining guidance and legal services are not always an option, rendering the application process a fraught and alienating experience. New American Workforce’s citizenship program partnership with Walmart aims to fill this gap by working with businesses to provide direction and support to immigrant employees who are eligible for citizenship. Lovely McNulty, an employee of Walmart’s Corporate Office, confronted these challenges to naturalization prior to working with New American Workforce.
Born in the Philippines, Lovely immigrated to the U.S. with her daughter in 2013 under a K-1 Fiancée visa. Lovely’s journey to citizenship was more time consuming than she initially thought due to leaving an abusive relationship. Determined to become a U.S. citizen, Lovely overcame this obstacle by self-petitioning for citizenship.
During the early stages of Lovely’s citizenship process, she worked independently to research naturalization and how to fill out her application. She quickly became overwhelmed by the complex and contradictory information that she received: “I first tried to do it on my own. I was getting different information and was scared that I might misunderstand and wouldn’t do it right.”
As an employee of Walmart, she began applying through the New American Workforce program in 2020. Throughout her application process, she received assistance that she described as vital to her ability to obtain citizenship: “It was really helpful and organized since they provided a list of documents and step-by-step procedure. If I had done it myself, it would have been really difficult because I don’t have a lot of resources. So this resource really helped me with that process.” Another challenge that Lovely encountered as a single mother while applying for citizenship was the high cost of the application itself. Since Lovely was receiving legal guidance through the New American Workforce program, she learned about the eligibility process of applying for a fee waiver by submitting proper documentation.
Lovely has been working with Walmart since 2015. She takes great pride in her work and her company: “I feel good that I became qualified working for one of the largest retailers in the world’s corporate office. It’s not easy to get into a corporate job, especially with Walmart. Now, I’m part of the E-Commerce as a Billing Specialist. I like being able to help people in this position.” Having the opportunity to apply for citizenship through her affiliation with Walmart made Lovely feel seen and supported by her employer: “It can be very stressful dealing with immigration. I feel really grateful that I have a company that cares about helping immigrants like me throughout this process, that they had something like this. They were the bridge for me to get my citizenship.”
Lovely officially became a U.S. citizen in 2021 and is looking forward to engaging with the many rights and responsibilities that citizenship encompasses. One aspect of citizenship that Lovely is particularly excited to take advantage of is the right to vote. She hopes that her vote will help create a positive future for the next generation: “It’s your voice. Every vote counts. It’s me getting my voice out there. It’s not for me, but for my kids’ futures.” As a U.S. citizen, Lovely also wishes to reunite with her parents and petition for their citizenship in the future.
Congratulations on obtaining citizenship Lovely!
The National Immigration Forum would like to thank Kathryn Keyser, Integration Programs intern, for capturing this story.