Cost of Application Cited as Obstacle to Naturalization

WASHINGTON (CN) — The $725 cost of applying for U.S. citizenship appears to be among the greatest bars that keeps legal immigrants from Mexico and other Latin-American countries from applying for U.S. citizenship, the Pew Research Center reported on Thursday.

Though Mexicans are the single largest group of lawful immigrants to the United States, they are among the least likely to carry the naturalization process through to the end, though more are applying this year, Pew said in its online report.

Of “the single largest group of lawful immigrants by country of origin,” 42 percent of Mexican immigrants had applied for and obtained U.S. citizenship by 2015, Pew found. It found that the rate has changed little since 2005, and that the percentage of lawful Mexican immigrants who have naturalized was among the “lowest among all immigrant groups when it comes to country of origin.”

However, “Nearly all (98 percent) Mexican lawful immigrants and 94 percent of other lawful Latino immigrants said they would naturalize if they could,” the study reported.

It costs $725 to apply for naturalization.

Longtime workers with refugee and immigrant support groups say that immigrants from faraway, war-torn countries are more likely to have few qualms about cutting ties with the land where they were born. Sentimental ties to their homeland, as well as Mexican citizens’ access to free or low-cost medical care may make them less likely to cut ties with Mexico.

Senior researcher Ana Gonzalez-Barrera, who wrote the report, said Pew used three sources to determine why Mexican and other Latin American immigrants had not applied for citizenship, but paused the naturalization process at permanent residency.

The survey found that 35 percent of Mexican immigrants with green cards cited “personal barriers” as their reason for not getting naturalized, including lack of English proficiency.

Thirty-one percent of lawful Mexican immigrants said they were either uninterested in becoming citizens or had yet to apply. Thirteen percent said the costs of applying deterred them. Nineteen percent of non-Mexican lawful immigrants agreed that “financial and administrative barriers, mainly the cost of naturalization” presented the biggest challenge.

But the study found that this could be the year more lawful immigrants decide to apply.

“According to the latest figures released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services, there were 525,000 naturalization applications submitted during the first half of fiscal year 2017, which started Oct. 1,” Pew reported.

“That number is up 21 percent from the 435,000 applications submitted in the same period of 2016. The total applications for fiscal 2016 were up by 24 percent compared with 2015, and represented the highest number of applications for naturalization since 2008.

“Meanwhile, the number of lawful permanent residents admitted since 2010, many of whom would have recently become eligible to apply for citizenship, has stabilized at around 1 million per year since 2010.”

The study was compiled from data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and Current Population Survey. Pew also conducted a bilingual telephone survey of 1,500 non-Mexican Latinos, 795 of whom were immigrants.

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