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Challenges of naturalization

What challenges do immigrants face in the naturalization process? Created by Kimberly Kutz.

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Video transcript

- Now that we've talked about the naturalization process and the eligibility requirements for naturalization, let's talk about how difficult it can be to become a naturalized citizen. Immigrant residents seeking naturalization face barriers throughout the process. And it's only become more difficult over time. Immigrants face strict requirements to become lawful permanent residents, and when they try to become U.S. citizens, they face increased filing costs and long processing times for their applications. Certain groups of immigrants get priority when they apply for lawful permanent resident status. As the Pew Research Center reported, in 2015, 44% of green cards went to immigrants who were immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. And 20% went to immigrants who were extended family members of citizens and lawful permanent residents. Having special skills, like being a talented doctor or doing innovative research, or special talents, like being a gifted athlete, means you're in the most prioritized group for employment-based preferences for lawful permanent residents. If you don't have special skills or talents, you can still be eligible for employment-based residency, but you have to have an employer willing to complete all the necessary paperwork with the federal government. As that is an added cost, some employers refuse to hire people from outside the United States. So if you don't have any specialized skills, a job offer, an employer willing to file paperwork for labor certification, a parent with lawful permanent resident or citizenship status, it's difficult to get lawful permanent status. The challenges continue throughout the naturalization process. It takes years for lawful permanent residents to become American citizens. Remember that even to apply for naturalization, lawful permanent residents have to have lived in the United States for at least five years. But the process can take much longer than that. The median time it takes for lawful permanent residents to become citizens is actually eight years. Part of the reason that it takes so long is because of how long it takes to process a naturalization application. The federal government has experienced a significant backlog of applications waiting for processing. And the average time to process a citizenship application has doubled since 2012. This is due to a surge in applications and stricter scrutiny on those applications. And the costs associated with filing a naturalization application have also increased significantly. Let's take a look at this chart. In 1985, it only cost $35 for a person to file an application. Now it costs over $1,000 to file. Why does it cost so much more? USCIS argues that the increased fees are necessary to offset the growing cost of processing applications and deterring fraud. And this graph doesn't cover all of the costs an immigrant might incur during the naturalization process, since it doesn't include any of the costs associated with getting a lawyer to advise them or any classes that they might need to take in order to learn English or U.S. Civics. Although immigrant residents face a number of challenges to become naturalized citizens, hundreds of thousands apply for naturalization every year, because the benefits of becoming a naturalized citizen often outweigh the costs.