Sharp Rise in U.S. Naturalization Rates for People from India, Ecuador

A report released by the nonpartisan fact tank Pew Research Center estimates that most of the 20 largest immigrant groups living in the United States experienced increases in naturalization rates between 2005 and 2015. The Pew Research Center data further reveals that overall naturalization rates in the U.S. increased by 37 percent during the same period. So, while the process for a foreign national to become a U.S. citizen can be time consuming, stringent, and arduous, it seems that more and more immigrants are pledging their commitment to our country. [See Naturalization Rate Among U.S. Immigrants Up Since 2005, with India Among the Biggest Gainers, by Ana Gonzalez-Barrera and Jens Manuel Krogstad, Pew Research Center, 18.Jan.2018.]

According to the data, Ecuador and India had the highest increase in naturalization rates over the ten-year period that was examined. Ecuador’s citizenship rate jumped from 55 percent to 68 percent, while India’s increased from 68 percent to 80 percent. Several other nations had a substantial gain in naturalization rates as well, including Peru, Vietnam, and Haiti. Only two immigrant groups out of the 20 that were analyzed, China and Honduras, revealed a decline in citizenship levels, and their drop off over ten years was quite minimal. The Pew Research Center data confirms that, overall, there were about 19.8 million naturalized citizens living in the United States in 2015, comprising roughly 44 percent of the foreign-born population. Another 12 million immigrants were lawful permanent residents, more commonly known as green card holders.

It seems incongruous that so many immigrants are striving to create a permanent life for themselves within a legal system seemingly designed to stymie them at every avenue. The U.S. has one of the most onerous naturalization processes in the developed world, with a long list of eligibility requirements that include first obtaining lawful permanent residence, which can be extremely challenging, and then residing in the United States as a green card holder for at least five years (three years for those married to U.S. citizens). Then they must undergo the background check, demonstrate proficiency in speaking English, pass a U.S. civics and history test, and satisfy a number of other requirements related to residence and physical presence in the country. [See 5 Hardest Countries for Getting Citizenship, by Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell, Investopedia, 19.Jan.2017.]

And yet, approximately three-quarters of a million immigrants each year successfully complete this grueling process. Why do immigrants keep committing to a country that puts so many obstacles in their way? It’s true that citizenship provides a myriad of benefits that legal permanent residents don’t have, including the right to vote, participate in a jury, and apply for some federal jobs. But perhaps the millions of immigrants who have attained U.S. citizenship view the pursuit of the American dream as the ultimate privilege.


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