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In a groundbreaking effort to make it easier and cheaper for immigrants to apply for citizenship, the first free online platform was launched Thursday to guide applicants through the process. Called Citizenshipworks, the $1 million project is a joint effort by the Immigration Advocates Network and Pro Bono Net, which provides technical support to legal services groups for the poor.

The site will allow applicants to fill out naturalization forms themselves, and direct those with more complicated cases to free or low-cost lawyers. Citizenshipworks takes the 20-page federal naturalization form and transforms it into a series of plain language questions in English or Spanish. If an applicant enters information that suggests the need for legal help, he or she will be advised to consult a lawyer and given referrals. Hundreds of nonprofits across the county have agreed to provide legal advice for free or a nominal cost to qualifying individuals.

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