New Report: It’s Harder Than Ever To Become A Citizen

via Boundless Immigration

In a new report released today, Boundless Immigration uses novel analysis, data visualizations, and city rankings to reveal that applying for U.S. citizenship has become far more difficult over the last two years—and it's far harder in some metro areas than others. Key findings of this State of New American Citizenship report include:

The national trends are worrisome.

  • The processing time for a citizenship application has surged over the past 2 years to over 10 months—double the processing time between 2012 and 2016.
  • These processing times are almost sure to keep rising, because the government has not kept pace with the volume of incoming applications. After a 2-year spike in 2016–2017, the volume of citizenship applications returned to a typical level in 2018—but the government’s backlog processing efficiency remains at the lowest level in a decade.
  • The likelihood that a citizenship application will be denied has risen slightly over the past few years.

And becoming a U.S. citizen is much harder in some places than others.

  • Immigrants in some cities face citizenship application wait times more than four times higherthan in other cities.
  • Immigrants in some cities experience a citizenship application denial rate two times higher than the national average.
  • Some cities have four or five government field offices where immigrants can attend their citizenship interviews; other cities have none and make immigrants travel over 150 miles to the nearest field office.

New city rankings reveal the best and worst places to become a U.S. citizen.

  • The top 3 best overall metro areas for immigrants to become U.S. citizens are Cleveland, Ohio; Riverside, California; and Louisville, Kentucky.
  • The worst 3 metro areas for immigrants to become U.S. citizens are all in Texas: Austin, Houston, and Dallas.
  • The top 3 government offices handling citizenship applications most efficiently are in Cleveland, Ohio; Providence, Rhode Island; and Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • The worst 3 government offices handling citizenship applications least efficiently are in St. Paul, Minnesota; Miami, Florida; and Houston, Texas. The maximum wait time in the St. Paul office is now almost 2 years.
  • The top 3 metro areas with the highest naturalization rate of eligible immigrants are Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  • The worst 3 metro areas with the lowest naturalization rate are Fresno, California; Phoenix, Arizona; and Dallas, Texas.

The data suggest some structural barriers based on region of origin.

  • There is a negative correlation between a metro area’s naturalization rate and the percentage of the eligible immigrant population from Mexico.
  • There is a positive correlation between a metro area’s naturalization rate and the percentage of the eligible immigrant population from Africa, Asia, or Europe.
  • These correlations probably arise from structural barriers to naturalization that affect different populations in different ways. In terms of individual motivation, other studies show that the overwhelming majority of immigrants to the United States, from any region of origin, express the desire to become U.S. citizens.


More resources:

    • Today, becoming a #naturalized U.S. citizen means facing double the wait time from two years ago, the lowest gov't processing efficiency in a decade, & huge regional disparities. New report on #immigrants & #citizenship from @chooseboundless today: https://www.boundless.com/american-citizenship-report/

By illuminating national and local trends in new American citizenship, we hope that this report is useful to immigrants, advocates, and state and local government leaders seeking to make the naturalization process more navigable and equitable.