The 844-page Senate Immigration Bill includes new border security measures, changes to the current legal immigration system, and a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally.
In a recent article, Immigration reform: The 1986 amnesty vs. the 2013 path to citizenship: How they compare, Rojas states unauthorized immigrants who qualify for legal status under the Senate’s immigration reform proposal should expect a 13-year path to U.S. citizenship. Which is interesting because according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), immigrants who are in the U.S. legally, face a six to nine months path to citizenship under the current laws. But whether it’s 6 months or 13 years, the process to gain citizenship is difficult.
Becoming a U.S. Citizen is a tedious process, and often discourages candidates to apply. Here’s a quick glimpse to why people want to become a U.S. Citizen in the first place, who can apply for citizenship and how the process generally works.
Why do people apply for citizenship?
According to Ilona Bray, author and legal editor at Nolo-Law for All, these are the main reasons people apply for citizenship:
- To gain the right to vote and hold certain federal jobs
- To receive security from Anti-Immigrant Laws
- Security from Removal
- To have the right to live outside the U.S. or to take long trips
- Have special rights and protections when traveling outside the U.S.
- Ease in returning to the U.S.
- To increase the ability to help family members immigrate
- To be eligible for public benefits
Who can apply?
The USCIS states that there are specific requirements for people to be eligible to apply for citizenship. The applicants must be:
- Be 18 or older at the time of filing
- Be a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
- Have lived within the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence, for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing the application
- Have continuous residence in the United States as a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
- Be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
- Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization up to the time of naturalization
- Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).
- Be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during all relevant periods under the law
How does it work?
1. Pay Up
The process usually takes 6-9 months and it starts out by submitting a N-400 Application Form, which is about $595, but could be a total of $680 with a biometric test. The applicant must also be fingerprinted, so that’s another $85. The applicant can also choose to hire an attorney, and we all know attorneys aren’t cheap.
2. Get Tested
The applicant must take some tests. Tests are to prove that the applicant knows basic English. They are also a way to prove that the applicant has resided in the U.S.
The four tests that must be taken:
Speaking Test: Applicant must prove his or her ability to speak English during an interview (40 minutes).
Reading Test: Requires applicant to read one of three sentences in English, and it must be read correctly.
Writing Test: Applicant must write one sentence to demonstrate his or her ability to write in English.
Civics Test: Applicant must answer 6/10 questions correctly. Questions are on U.S. history and government.
According to the USCIS 92% of applicants pass. If the applicant fails a test, he or she must wait 90 days before trying again. If the applicant fails again, then the applicant must restart the process. That means more time and more money, but if everything goes well and the applicant completes and passes the tests, the applicant may proceed.
The applicant must attend the swearing-in ceremony, where the applicant will take the Oath of Allegiance. The applicant must take the oath of allegiance in a public ceremony before the Attorney General or before a court, which has jurisdiction pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). By taking the oath, the applicant swears to:
- Support the U.S. Constitution and obey the laws of the United States
- Renounce any foreign allegiance and/or foreign title;
- Support and defend the U.S. Constitution and laws against all enemies, foreign and domestic;
- Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution and laws;
- Bear arms for the armed forces of the United States; or perform noncombatant services for the U.S. Government; or perform work of national importance under civilian direction, when required by law.
This step is critical because the applicant will not be considered a citizen until the Oath of Allegiance has been taken.
Finally, the applicant can enjoy the benefits of being a U.S. Citizen.
According to Your U.S. Citizenship Guide: What You Need to Know to Pass Your U.S. Citizenship Test, every year 7.5 million people apply for citizenship. This clearly shows how eager people are to commit to the United States. And that goes back to the importance of this proposed bill. Sure the bill is far from perfect, but according to the Pew Research Center this bill could affect up to 17 million people in the U.S., and that should be taken serious. What are your thoughts on the reformation? Have you been keeping up with the latest news? Would this bill affect you personally?