The City of Philadelphia is proud to announce that it has been officially designated a Certified Welcoming city by Welcoming America. This formal designation recognizes cities that have created policies and programs reflecting their values and commitment to immigrant inclusion. 

Philadelphia is the fourth City in the Commonwealth and the largest City in the nation to gain certification. Currently, only 18 cities and counties across the country have been named Certified Welcoming.

How it works

Since launching in 2017, Certified Welcoming and its operating framework, the Welcoming Standard, have served as a roadmap for local governments seeking to build truly welcoming communities. 

It takes several years to meet the criteria to become Certified Welcoming and requires a multisector effort involving the mayor’s office, local organizations, law enforcement agencies, the education sector, and more. 

The Certified Welcoming process includes a detailed self-assessment and in-depth audit of a City’s policies, programs, and services. Once this process is complete, the City receives an overall score. Philadelphia earned 92 out of 100 points while the average score among Certified Welcoming cities is 55 points, making our City one of the best places for immigrants to live.

By the numbers 

Immigrants make up about 15% of Philadelphia’s population. According to the Pew Trusts, 1 in 5 Philadelphians in the labor force have an immigrant background, and 1 in 5 children live in a household with a foreign-born person. 

Immigrants are central to Philadelphia’s economic growth and productivity, as well as its cultural and linguistic diversity. 

The Office of Immigrant Affairs and other City agencies have remained committed to supporting immigrant communities and ensuring that they have the opportunities to fully contribute and thrive.

What makes Philadelphia welcoming

The City of Philadelphia earned a high score for accomplishing the following, among many others: 

  • Clear investment into language access to improve data transparency around departmental usage of language services and hold city departments accountable for providing interpretation and translation.
  • Commitment to creating a more equitable and navigable justice system which is reflected through the work of the Immigration Counsel at the District Attorney’s office and their partnership with the Pennsylvania Immigrant Family Unity Project to create pathways for representation for cases involving immigration and housing.
  • Launching immigrant-inclusive citywide initiatives such as the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights; the Pay Equity Ordinance; various education programs through the Office of Children and Families and the School District; community engagement strategies implemented by Philly Counts to ensure fair elections and an accurate Census, Language Access Philly, and many other programs that improve access to city services and resources for immigrant communities.
  • Having strong partnerships and an extensive network of organizations working on immigrant inclusion. These connections have made welcoming new arrivals fleeing violence in Afghanistan, Haiti, Ukraine, and Latin America possible.

Read the full Certification Audit report here.

What to expect next 

The Office of Immigrant Affairs will collaborate with community leaders and other stakeholders to create a formal welcoming plan for the City of Philadelphia. 

The Certified Welcoming audit process provides us with an opportunity to operationalize and sustain the City’s welcoming efforts through an immigrant inclusion plan which will ensure that our long-term goals are reflective of the priorities and needs of immigrant communities. 

Although Philadelphia was assessed and scored against the Welcoming Standard 1.0, we hope to build a welcoming plan that aspires to the new goals set in the Welcoming Standard 2.0.

How you can stay involved

Helps us promote this accomplishment! We have created a Certified Welcoming Social Media Toolkit with text and graphics to promote our ongoing commitment to being welcoming!

Email with any questions or to share your interest in getting involved. 

OIA will be co-hosting a virtual Audit Briefing Session with Welcoming America on February 28th. Register today to attend! Interpretation will be available. 
Join our mailing list to stay informed and learn about new policies and programs that support immigrant communities across the City.