During the worst months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) suspended many of its operations in order to adjust to public health measures intended to prevent contagion. As a result of these measures, thousands of petitions for naturalization were put on hold. In some cases, immigrants with more than 10 years of permanent residence were forced to wait another two years before they could take their citizenship examinations and naturalization oaths of allegiance.
Thus far in 2022, USCIS has been actively trying to work through its prodigious backlog of applications and petitions. More than 900,000 petitioners have attended naturalization ceremonies, and this number is expected to rise next year. Even though USCIS handles both immigration and naturalization matters, there’s a difference between these two administrative processes, one of which is a benefit.
What Is Immigration?
Immigration is the civil and administrative process the U.S. government has established for the purpose of managing the flow and status of foreigners who intend to reside in the country on a permanent basis. USCIS oversees various benefits that range from visas and work permits to asylum and American citizenship. Naturalization is the highest benefit USCIS offers. It’s the culmination of a process by which foreigners gain virtually all the rights natural-born Americans are entitled to.
Immigrants aren’t obligated to pursue naturalization. In fact, the Pew Research Center estimates that about half of permanent residents who immigrate to the U.S. from Mexico don’t submit petitions for naturalization, and this percentage is even higher among Canadian and European immigrants who are happy to get their green cards and foreign passports. While immigrants aren’t obligated to become naturalized Americans, they’re encouraged to do so by means of USCIS public announcements.
What Is Naturalization?
The U.S. Constitution recognizes natural-born citizens as those individuals whose nationalities are registered on their birth certificates by virtue of jurisdiction or parental entitlement. A baby born in North Dakota would automatically become a natural-born American. The same could be said about a baby born in Bangladesh to parents who are U.S. citizens. Babies born in U.S. territories, special zones, embassies, and military bases abroad are also citizens by birth.
The naturalization benefit is only available to immigrants who become legal residents, and they must have lived in the U.S. for at least five years before they can file a petition. A skilled tech worker who spends 10 years working in the U.S. through H-1B visa renewals wouldn’t be eligible because that program belongs to a non-immigrant category. Immigrants who have resided in the U.S. for at least five years should strongly consider seeking the assistance of a San Diego immigration law firm and starting the naturalization process.
In some cases, naturalization can be fast-tracked through special programs such as serving in the U.S. armed forces, particularly during wartime. Some Afghan and Iraqi collaborators who fought alongside American forces during the “Global War on Terror” may also qualify for naturalization. These special cases are usually handled by immigration law firms. Adjusting status from non-immigrant to immigrant for the purpose of pursuing naturalization is something immigration law firms often manage, since it’s an elaborate process.
If you need help from attorneys with extensive expertise in immigration services in San Diego, contact KS Visa Law today. From family-based immigration to naturalization procedures, we can address all your immigration-related needs. Call 858-874-0711 to schedule an appointment.