More Immigrants Seeking Citizenship to Vote in 2016 Presidential Race

Article subtitle: 
Naturalization Trends in the United States
Article publisher: 
Migration Policy Institute
Article date: 
10 August 2016
Article category: 
National News
Article Body: 

... More than 653,000 immigrants naturalized in the United States in fiscal year (FY) 2014, bringing the total number of naturalized U.S. citizens to 20 million, nearly half the overall immigrant population of 42.4 million. Over the past decade, the annual number of naturalizations has ranged from about 537,000 to just more than 1 million, depending on factors including processing times and backlogs as well as the financial constraints and personal motivations of immigrants themselves.

Becoming a naturalized citizen is contingent upon meeting certain requirements, such as completing a period of lawful permanent residence, demonstrating basic proficiency in English and knowledge of U.S. history and government, and passing the background check. The benefits of naturalization include the right to sponsor immediate family for immigration, greater access to government benefits, and protection from deportation...

Although the number of naturalization applications remained relatively stable, the number of pending cases increased substantially: from 307,965 at the end of FY 2013 to 379,790 at the end of FY 2014...

The 59 percent increase in naturalizations (from 660,477 to 1,046,539) between FY 2007 and FY 2008 is the result of naturalization campaigns launched ahead of the 2008 presidential elections and an impending increase in naturalization application fees (which took effect on July 30, 2007). Together, these actions created a backlog in naturalization applications, prompting USCIS to take steps to reduce processing times in late 2007...

Examining naturalizations over time, Mexico remained the top country of birth for new naturalized citizens in both FY 2000 and FY 2014, but accounted for a lower share of the total annual naturalizations in FY 2014 than in FY 2000. India and the Philippines overtook Vietnam and China for second and third places. While Iran, Jamaica, and Korea were among the top ten origin countries in FY 2000, they were replaced by Haiti, Colombia, and Cuba in FY 2014...

In FY 2014, more than half of new naturalized citizens lived in four states: California, Florida, New York, and Texas...

Military Naturalizations

During times of peace, noncitizen members of the armed forces may obtain citizenship after a one-year waiting period. Launched in FY 2016, the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program allows certain noncitizens with in-demand skills, particularly in health care and critical languages, to join the Army in exchange for expedited U.S. citizenship.

Section 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act authorizes the president to issue executive orders specifying periods of conflict during which foreign-born members of the U.S. military are eligible for immediate U.S. citizenship. In July 2002, President George W. Bush issued such an executive order, designating September 11, 2001 as the start day of a period of hostilities. As a result, foreign-born, noncitizen military personnel serving on or after that date became eligible for expedited citizenship.

As of FY 2015, approximately 109,000 foreign-born members of the U.S. armed services have become citizens since the September 11, 2001 attacks, including 11,069 who naturalized while serving overseas or aboard U.S. Navy ships.

Between FY 2008 and FY 2015, close to 90 percent of the 6,790 overseas military naturalizations took place in five countries: Iraq (1,839 individuals), Japan (1,553), Afghanistan (1,017), South Korea (904), and Germany (764)...


In 2014, 20 million foreign-born individuals were naturalized U.S. citizens, representing 47 percent of the nation’s 42.4 million immigrants, according to 2014 ACS estimates...




Interactive chart: Naturalization in the United States, 1910-Present, Migration Policy Institute