Naturalization numbers going up

the largest increase in almost 15 years

According to the Pew Research Center, more than 900,000 immigrants became U.S. citizens last year. This is the third-highest number on record and the most since 2008, when more than a million people were naturalized.

After two below-average quarters, the number of naturalizations reached 200,000 in the January-March 2021 quarter – higher than the total for the same quarter in any of the nine previous years. Naturalization levels for 2021 and 2022 fiscal years have continued to outpace most pre-pandemic years.

The Center’s projection for the number of annual naturalizations for fiscal 2022 – about 940,000 – is higher than for any year since fiscal 2008, when an all-time high of 1,047,000 immigrants became citizens. Since 2012, the quarterly number of applications for naturalization has generally ranged from about 160,000 to 250,000. But after the pandemic began, applications dropped to 154,000 in the April-June 2020 quarter.

As of the end of June 2022, there was a backlog of about 673,000 pending applications for naturalization. There is still a backlog--it is down from more than a million pending applications in December 2020, but still much higher than in the period between 2012 and 2016.This is partially due to the closure of field offices in the early stages of the pandemic. By August 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had administered the oath of allegiance to nearly every naturalization applicant whose ceremony was postponed when immigration offices were closed. The median time to process a naturalization application, 9.1 months in fiscal 2020, rose to 10.5 months in fiscal 2022.

Naturalizations for immigrants from most countries went down during the pandemic, but they have now risen to 20% above their pre-pandemic average. One prominent exception is naturalizations of immigrants from China, one of the top 10 countries for naturalizations overall. Naturalizations of Chinese nationals are down about 20% from their pre-pandemic average.Numbers of naturalization of immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America and Middle East-North Africa are up by 15% to 26% compared with their pre-pandemic averages.

According to the report, the total number of naturalized citizens in the U.S. almost tripled between 1995 and 2019, from 7.6 million to 22.1 million. In contrast, the number of immigrants who may be eligible to be naturalized but have not done so has changed relatively little during that period.

The share of immigrants who were naturalized grew steadily from 38% in 1995 to 65% in 2019. Those from Europe and Asia (both 73%) are the most likely to have been naturalized, followed by those from Middle East-North Africa (72%), sub-Saharan Africa (66%) and Latin America (56%).

The countries with the smallest proportion of lawful immigrants who are naturalized U.S. citizens (among those with at least 100,000 naturalized citizens overall) are El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Japan and Mexico. Fewer than half of immigrants from these countries are naturalized citizens.

The countries with the highest proportion of immigrants who have been naturalized include Cambodia, Guyana, Iran, Laos, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Vietnam. At least 80% of immigrants from these countries have gained U.S. citizenship.

The full report is here: