Applications for U.S. Citizenship are up — but so too are denials

Legal permanent residents in the U.S. are a part of American culture. As a nation of immigrants, most U.S. citizens can trace their heritage to another country or geographical area. As such, the U.S. welcomes legal immigrants of good moral character who meet certain requirements to become U.S. citizens, with all of its attendant rights and obligations.

Unfortunately the process doesn't always make it feel that way.

Becoming a citizen can be a complicated process, and honest mistakes in previous immigration applications, one bad decision or simply filling out a form incorrectly can lead to rejected applications by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. According to a study by the Migration Policy Institute, the USCIS is rejecting more naturalization applications than ever. Currently about 10 percent of applications are rejected.

In fact, five long-time permanent residents are currently suing the U.S. government, claiming that the USCIS is unfairly delaying or denying their requests for citizenship on the basis of their religion, which is Islam.

But there need not be any discrimination for an application for citizenship to be denied. For example, permanent residents must be specific when applying for naturalization. Exact dates are very important regarding time spent abroad, dates of births and marriages and previous immigration applications. Even just guessing wrongly on a question on Form N-400, the naturalization application, can be considered perjury and grounds for revocation of a green card.

If there is a serious enough issue, an application for naturalization can actually lead to deportation proceedings. This could happen if there is a criminal history or if previous information on a green card application was incorrect, for example.

Many legal immigrants eligible for naturalization

It is estimated that in 2012, 8.8 million legal residents in the U.S. were eligible for citizenship. However, less than 1 million became naturalized. Many of the legal obstacles, the expense, and fears about deportation stop legal immigrants from becoming U.S. citizens. But the benefits are numerous. U.S. citizens can bring family members to the United States - U.S. Citizens generally get priority when petitioning for family members. U.S. citizens can vote and even become elected officials. A U.S. passport gives citizens the right to help from the U.S. government when traveling abroad. Becoming a U.S. citizen is also an excellent way to demonstrate commitment and patriotism to the U.S. While the process can be complicated, the benefits often make applying for naturalization worthwhile.

Legal residents interested in becoming U.S. citizens should contact an experienced immigration law attorney to discuss their application and ensure that they apply for citizenship correctly.