Naturalization of eligible immigrants strengthens families, boosts the economy, and builds communities through the greater civic participation of the new citizens.

So What?
Indiana has a lower rate of naturalization than most of the country. Thus, we are penalized more than other states by the delays in processing time. These delays themselves serve as a barrier to naturalization.

The Problem
Applications for naturalization have soared to near record levels in the past two years and average wait times have doubled to more than 10 months on average. In some parts of the country, wait times exceed 20 months.

Solutions
1. USCIS stated a plan to increase staff at district offices by 685 people, but it’s not clear if these new staffers will be assigned to reduce the naturalization case backlog to the stated goal of 5 months. Congress should pass legislation directing USCIS to assign adequate staff to reduce the backlog to under 5 months.
2. Congress should exempt graduates of U.S. high schools or GED diploma recipients from the English and civics portions of the naturalization test, since the curricula of such programs reflect knowledge of U.S. history, government, and civics, as well as the English language. This would increase the speed and efficiency of the process.

Benefits
Naturalized immigrants have higher incomes than legal permanent residents. Once naturalized, they can access rights and opportunities only available to U.S. citizens, allowing them to help our country reach its full potential, both economically and civically. According to one study, US GDP would increase between $37-$52 billion annually if at least 50% of eligible Lawful Permanent Residents obtained citizenship.

 

Sources:
U.S. Average Processing Times for N400 Naturalization Applications: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Estimated N400 Processing Times: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
“Why is the U.S. so far Behind in Naturalizing New Citizens?” by Pramila Jayapal and Manuel Pastor, Los Angeles Times, September 7, 2018
“Under Trump, There’s a Growing Wait to Become a U.S. Citizen,” by Teo Armus, The Washington Post, August 17, 2018
“Unclog the Naturalization Backlog,” by Christian Penechet-Paul, National Immigration Forum, September 13, 2018
“Behind the Naturalization Backlog: Causes, Contexts and Concerns,” by Claire Bergeron, Migration Policy Institute, 2018
“Skyrocketing Naturalization Backlog: Politics at Play?” by Sarah Sherman-Stokes, The Hill, September 25, 2018