The Road to Naturalization: Addressing the Barriers to Citizenship

September 16, 2016

On the eve of Citizenship Day, we released a new paper, “The Road to Naturalization: Addressing the Barriers to Citizenship,” and we reflect that more than 8.8 million lawful permanent residents (LPRs) throughout the United States are eligible to naturalize. Yet, fewer than 800,000 have naturalized every year for the last six years.

The lawful permanent resident population of the United States continues to grow as millions of eligible-to-naturalize immigrants do not take the steps to become citizens. At a time when we see declining civic participation, our nation cannot afford to allow these potential citizens to languish. Many people who are eligible to naturalize and desire to do so face significant barriers. Our nation should work to remove unnecessary barriers to citizenship and help would-be citizens overcome difficulties.

Naturalizing more eligible individuals would provide significant economic benefits to our country, because it helps immigrants improve their social and economic status. Naturalized immigrants generally have higher incomes than permanent residents. In addition, once they naturalize, they have access to rights and opportunities that are available only to U.S. citizens, allowing them the opportunity to help our country reach its full potential, both economically and civically.

This paper provides a general overview of immigrants eligible to naturalize, the naturalization process, the economic benefits of and barriers to naturalization, and efforts by the New Americans Campaign to assist eligible immigrants to become citizens. It concludes by providing policy recommendations to make the process more accessible and affordable to all eligible immigrants.