Naturalization trends

Naturalizations of eligible persons rose upwards towards one million a year during the Trump administration, out of fear that he would block naturalization. The Pandemic drove the numbers down to under 700,000. (Go here and here).

Consistent with his anti-immigration policy, President Trump even made it more difficult for Green Card holders to become citizens, by doubling fees, eliminating most fee waivers for low-income applicants, and impose a more difficult and time-consuming civics test. The fee proposal was blocked by a U.S. district court judge, and the Biden administration reinstated the earlier civics test shortly after taking office in early 2021.

There were 23.2 million naturalized U.S. citizens in the United States in 2019, the most recent reporting available, making up 52 percent of the overall immigrant population, which stood at 44.9 million. 

Many immigrants who are here on permanent visas (green cards) don’t take out citizenship, but most do, and the rate has gone up. According to Pew Research, naturalization rates rose from 62% in 2005 to 67% in 2015. An estimated 9 million are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. The 11 million illegal immigrants are of course not eligible.

Eligible immigrants from Vietnam, 86%, and Iran, 85%, had the highest naturalization rates of any group in 2015. Above 80% rates are seen for India, South Korea and a few other countries. The rate among Chinese is 76%. Mexican immigrants have long had among the lowest U.S. naturalization rates (42%) of any origin group.

To be eligible for U.S. citizenship, immigrants must be age 18 or older, have resided in the U.S. for at least five years as lawful permanent residents (or three years for those married to a U.S. citizen), and be in good standing with the law, among other requirements. The multi-step process to obtain U.S. citizenship begins with submitting an application and paying a $725 fee.

The U.S. government denied naturalization applications from 2005 to 2015 to 11% of the 8.5 million applications filed during this time. The standards are here. Ability to speak English is one of them but there are exemptions.

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