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Foreign Born are Naturalizing Faster than Ever Before

A few months ago, when USCIS released their Fiscal Year 2014 Update on "Trends in Naturalization Rates," the news that more foreign born are becoming citizens than ever before did not seem surprising, given the political climate of the 2016 presidential elections.  

In fact, we'll likely see a "huge" spike of naturalizations, possibly emerging as soon as 2015, but certainly by 2016.

The rate that Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) who had been in the country for 6 years naturalized almost doubled over the past 40 years.

In the same time, those LPRs in the country 20 years naturalized at rates that increased from 40% in the 1970s, to more than 60% in 2014.  

While a major dip in rates of naturalization occurred in the early 90s, this was largely due to the large numbers legalized at the time of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986. Most of the people affected by the 1986 IRCA did not naturalize. But other than that sort of data variation, the numbers naturalizing steadily increased through the 40 year period.

The numbers by country of origin show some interesting detail. Those born in countries close to the United States, and also the south Pacific, were less likely to naturalize than those born further away. The most likely to naturalize were LPRs from an African country, and the least likely were those born in North America.  Those born in Asia were almost as likely to become citizens as were those from an African country.

That being said, the rate of naturalization for Canadians and Mexicans, from the single digits in the 1970s, to the 30%s in the 2000s, the largest rise of naturalizations versus those of every other country in the study.

Foreign born most likely to naturalize were Refugees and Asylees -- those who came being forced out of their country. Refugee and Asylee rates of naturalization changed little over time, having always been high (in the 70%s).  The greatest change in naturalization rates was for those who are relatives of US citizens, which saw a rate change increase of one third. 


Gordon Landefeld